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"The Harmony of All Things": Music, Soul, and
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"The Harmony of All Things": Music, Soul, and Cosmos in the Writings of
John Scottus Eriugena
In his prodigious philosophical work Periphyseon, the foremost intellectual of the ninth century, John Scottus
Eriugena (ca. 800–877 CE), defined musica broadly and in a way that solicits interdisciplinary applications:
“Music is the discipline discerning by the light of reason the harmony of all things in natural proportions
which are either in motion or at rest.” In this dissertation, I trace resonances of the ars musica in Eriugena’s
writings using selections from his three greatest works: Periphyseon, his glosses on Martianus Capella’s
textbook De Nuptiis, and his commentary over Pseudo-Dionysius’s treatise on the Celestial Hierarchy of
Angels. Beginning with his comments on Capella, I present ways in which Eriugena’s reflections on music as a
liberal art intersect with his discussions of the cosmos and the human soul.
For Eriugena and earlier Neoplatonists, the consideration of quantity related to quantity in ratio was the
proper province of musica, and this natural ordering corresponded to the overall coherence observed
throughout the cosmos. That is, the “natural proportions” in Eriugena’s definition of music included all things
that can be studied, visible or invisible. Although some previous musicological considerations of Eriugena’s
writings have sought insights on performance practices of the ninth century (e.g., the organicum melos
question), most have dealt almost exclusively with his description of the harmony of the spheres; this project
extends these discussions and explores a fundamental element in Platonic thought neglected in previous
studies, i.e., music related to the spheres and the human soul. Eriugena’s writings provide a perfect opportunity
for such a study.
Using my own translation of Eriugena’s glosses on Martianus Capella’s De Nuptiis, I demonstrate how
Eriugena’s short treatise on the harmony of the spheres incorporates a discussion on the motions of human
souls superimposed upon the planetary system. Furthermore, ix the ordering of the celestial hierarchy of
angels emanating from God is itself proportionally organized, in terms of the nature of each angelic hierarchy
and how they interact while relaying the divine oracles. In the end, I demonstrate that a unifying theme in
Eriugena’s philosophical writings is the need for central, proportionally defined mediators, whether the sun,
which modulates the celestial spheres, the mese in the Immutable System of tetrachords, or even specific ranks
within the hierarchy of angels.
John Scottus Eriugena, Periphyseon, De Nuptiis, philosophy of music, liberal arts
Music | Philosophy
• A dissertation submitted to the graduate faculty of the College of Music of Florida State University in
partial fulfillment for the degree of DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
• Dr. Charles E. Brewer, Major Professor
• © 2014 John MacInnis
This dissertation is available at Digital Collections @ Dordt: http://digitalcollections.dordt.edu/faculty_work/70
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This dissertation is available at Digital Collections @ Dordt: http://digitalcollections.dordt.edu/faculty_work/70
FLORIDA STATE UNIVERSITY
COLLEGE OF MUSIC
“THE HARMONY OF ALL THINGS”: MUSIC, SOUL, AND COSMOS
IN THE WRITINGS OF JOHN SCOTTUS ERIUGENA
JOHN CHRISTIAN MACINNIS
A Dissertation submitted to the
College of Music
in partial fulfillment of the
requirements for the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy
Spring Semester, 2014
Copyright © 2014
All Rights Reserved
John Christian MacInnis defended this dissertation on March 7, 2014.
The members of the supervisory committee were:
Charles E. Brewer
Professor Directing Dissertation
The Graduate School has verified and approved the above-named committee members, and
certifies that the dissertation has been approved in accordance with university requirements.
ii This dissertation is dedicated to the glory of God and with loving appreciation to Victoria
MULIEREM FORTEM QUIS INVENIET PROCUL ET DE
ULTIMIS FINIBUS PRETIUM EIUS . . . OS SUUM APERUIT
SAPIENTIAE ET LEX CLEMENTIAE IN LINGUA EIUS.
Although I have tried to express my thanks consistently and sincerely to everyone
contributing energy and insight towards the completion of this dissertation, the following people
should be mentioned formally in print. I thank first the Musicology faculty of the Florida State
University College of Music who taught me so much during my years in Tallahassee (20072012). Dr. Michael Bakan, Dr. Charles Brewer, Dr. Michael Broyles, Dr. Frank Gunderson, Dr.
Jeffery Kite-Powell, Dr. Benjamin Koen, Dr. Dale Olsen, Dr. Douglass Seaton, and Dr. Denise
Von Glahn inspired me constantly with their dedication to the discipline, knowledge, and belief
in the power and worth of music scholarship. Dr. Charles Brewer was my guide throughout the
dissertation process, and special thanks are due him for its completion, along with the other
members of my Supervisory Committee: Dr. Joseph Kraus, Dr. Robert Romanchuk, and Dr.
In 2012, I gratefully received an FSU Curtis Mayes Orpheus Fellowship, which funded
travel to Munich, Germany, where I had the opportunity to consult Dr. Michael Bernhard and Dr.
Calvin Bower at the Bavarian Academy of Sciences and Humanities. I thank them both for their
hospitality, use of the Lexicon Musicum Latinum Medii Aevi and the Commission Library, and,
of course, morning coffee. Dr. Bernhard also kindly provided me with a copy of an article by
Ernst Waeltner that was helpful in completing Chapter 3.
I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Charles Atkinson at a conference on music in the
Carolingian world, held in his honor at Ohio State University in 2011. The idea for my project
began after reading Dr. Atkinson’s The Critical Nexus: Tone-System, Mode, and Notation in
Early Medieval Music, and his encouragement via email has certainly contributed to the
iv completion of this dissertation. I met Dr. Mariken Teeuwen at the conference mentioned above,
and, since then, I have profited much from her scholarship and recommendations via email.
I am grateful for the reduction to my teaching load at Dordt College in 2014 funded by
The Andreas Center for Reformed Scholarship and Service that enabled me to complete my
dissertation; Dr. John Kok guided me through the application process. Also, my colleagues in the
John and Louise Hulst Library at Dordt College deserve my gratitude for their generous support
of coffee and interlibrary loans.
As for proofreading, I thank Monica McConnel, Anna Visser, and Rianne Van
Wingerden. Specialized help was graciously given by Dr. Albert Wolters, who assisted with
Greek orthography, and Dr. John Van Dyk, who looked over my Latin translations.
More personally, I thank Dr. Bryan Smith for his wisdom, friendship, and words fitly
spoken, which confirmed me on the path toward a doctorate in the first place. To my wife,
Victoria, and children, Sayward and Alistair, I pledge a lifelong debt of love and appreciation;
this work has meant much to me, and my family sacrificed a lot to let me finish it. Finally, I
thank my mother, Heather MacInnis, who taught me first to look and yearn for beauty.
How sweet the moonlight sleeps upon this bank!
Here will we sit, and let the sounds of music
Creep in our ears: soft stillness and the night
Become the touches of sweet harmony.
Sit, Jessica. Look, how the floor of heaven
Is thick inlaid with patines of bright gold:
There’s not the smallest orb which thou behold’st
But in his motion like an angel sings,
Still quiring to the young-eyed cherubins,
But whilst this muddy vesture of decay
Doth grossly close it in, we cannot hear it.
The Merchant of Venice V.I
v TABLE OF CONTENTS
Abstract ...................................................................................................................................... viii
1. INTRODUCTION .................................................................................................................... 1
The Carolingian Renovatio ............................................................................................... 3
Significant Authors and Authorities during the Ninth Century ...................................... 12
The Liberal Arts during the Ninth Century..................................................................... 17
Neoplatonism as Philosophical Context for the Liberal Arts ......................................... 28
2. THE WORKS OF JOHN SCOTTUS ERIUGENA ................................................................ 34
John Scottus Eriugena ..................................................................................................... 34
Annotationes in Marcianum............................................................................................ 37
Expositiones in hierarchiam caelestem Ps-Dionysii....................................................... 43
3. ERIUGENA’S ANNOTATIONES IN MARCIANUM ............................................................. 46
The Harmony of All Things............................................................................................ 47
The Organicum Melos Question ..................................................................................... 53
The Music of the Spheres ............................................................................................... 55
“Concerning the Harmony of Heavenly Movements and the Sounds of the Stars” ....... 67
Music, Soul, and Cosmos ............................................................................................... 76
Translation of Annotationes in Marcianum I:1-30 (Oxford, Bodleian Library,
Auct.T.2.19) .................................................................................................................... 80
4. ERIUGENA’S PERIPHYSEON ........................................................................................... 145
Periphyseon Book I....................................................................................................... 145
Augustine’s De Musica ................................................................................................. 155
vi Rhythmic Measure and Metaphysical Motion .............................................................. 165
Periphyseon Book III .................................................................................................... 172
5. ERIUGENA’S EXPOSITIONES IN HIERARCHIAM CAELESTEM................................... 181
Pseudo-Dionysius and The Celestial Hierarchy ........................................................... 181
Proportional Mediation in Calcidius’s Commentary on Plato’s Timaeus .................... 185
Proportionalitas in Boethius’s De institutione musica................................................. 192
Proportionalitas as Creative Principle.......................................................................... 194
Proportional Mediation within the Angelic Hierarchy ................................................. 200
6. CONCLUSION: “THE HARMONY OF ALL THINGS” ................................................... 206
BIBLIOGRAPHY ..................................................................................................................... 210
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH .................................................................................................... 217
In his prodigious philosophical work Periphyseon, the foremost intellectual of the ninth
century, John Scottus Eriugena (ca. 800–877 CE), defined musica broadly and in a way that
solicits interdisciplinary applications: “Music is the discipline discerning by the light of reason
the harmony of all things in natural proportions which are either in motion or at rest.” In this
dissertation, I trace resonances of the ars musica in Eriugena’s writings using selections from his
three greatest works: Periphyseon, his glosses on Martianus Capella’s textbook De Nuptiis, and
his commentary over Pseudo-Dionysius’s treatise on the Celestial Hierarchy of Angels.
Beginning with his comments on Capella, I present ways in which Eriugena’s reflections on
music as a liberal art intersect with his discussions of the cosmos and the human soul.
For Eriugena and earlier Neoplatonists, the consideration of quantity related to quantity
in ratio was the proper province of musica, and this natural ordering corresponded to the overall
coherence observed throughout the cosmos. That is, the “natural proportions” in Eriugena’s
definition of music included all things that can be studied, visible or invisible. Although some
previous musicological considerations of Eriugena’s writings have sought insights on
performance practices of the ninth century (e.g., the organicum melos question), most have dealt
almost exclusively with his description of the harmony of the spheres; this project extends these
discussions and explores a fundamental element in Platonic thought neglected in previous studies,
i.e., music related to the spheres and the human soul. Eriugena’s writings provide a perfect
opportunity for such a study.
Using my own translation of Eriugena’s glosses on Martianus Capella’s De Nuptiis, I
demonstrate how Eriugena’s short treatise on the harmony of the spheres incorporates a
discussion on the motions of human souls superimposed upon the planetary system. Furthermore,
viii the ordering of the celestial hierarchy of angels emanating from God is itself proportionally
organized, in terms of the nature of each angelic hierarchy and how they interact while relaying
the divine oracles. In the end, I demonstrate that a unifying theme in Eriugena’s philosophical
writings is the need for central, proportionally defined mediators, whether the sun, which
modulates the celestial spheres, the mese in the Immutable System of tetrachords, or even
specific ranks within the hierarchy of angels.
ix CHAPTER 1
From Antiquity through the Middle Ages, musical concepts such as harmony and
proportional ordering were commonly employed in other academic disciplines such as rhetoric
and theology, a situation that speaks to the interdisciplinary considerations of music.1 Therefore,
it is not without consequence that the foremost intellectual of the ninth century, John Scottus
Eriugena (ca. 800–877 CE), defined musica broadly and in a way that solicits interdisciplinary
applications: “Music is the discipline discerning by the light of reason the harmony of all things
in natural proportions which are either in motion or at rest.”2 The purpose of this research project
is to explain resonances of the ars musica throughout Eriugena’s writings, especially in his
Annotationes in Marcianum (859/60 CE), Periphyseon (ca. 864–67 CE; Lat., De Divisione
Naturae), and Expositiones in Hierarchiam Caelestem (865–70 CE). Specifically, beginning
with his Annotationes, I present ways in which Eriugena’s reflections on music as a liberal art
A 2011 conference honoring Dr. Charles Atkinson at Ohio State University, “Music in
the Carolingian World: Witnesses to a Metadiscipline” addressed this very topic: “It is the goal
of this conference to evoke this broader concept of music in the Carolingian sphere, with
emphasis on its interdisciplinary consequences for modern research; and in so doing, to argue
that Carolingian music, as a field of study, may properly be considered a metadiscipline”
(“Music in the Carolingian World: Witnesses to a Metadiscipline,” accessed 25 June 2013,
John Scottus Eriugena, Periphyseon I, ed. Edvardvs Jeauneau, Corpvs Christianorvm
Continuatio Mediaevalis (Turnhout: Brepols, 1999), vol. 161, 48 (PL122:475B): “Musica est
omnium quae sunt siue in motu siue in statu in naturalibus proportionibus armoniam rationis
lumine dinoscens disciplina.” Unless otherwise noted, all translations are my own.
1 and all-embracing academic discipline intersect with his understanding of the cosmos and the
Plato had connected music to his examinations of both the human soul and the cosmos,
and his followers in later eras used musical terminology to discuss metaphysics.3 Plotinus
(204/5–270 CE), considered a founder of Neoplatonism,4 used musical terms especially in his
discussion of the soul’s ascension to the One in his Enneads, e.g., harmonia helps the soul
perceive the universe and reality, and the soul’s union with the Universal-Soul results in
symphonia.5 Neoplatonists after Plotinus continued to engage music and its terminology, despite
doctrinal differences between them, e.g., Porphyry, St. Augustine, Martianus Capella, Boethius,
Cf. Francesco Pelosi, Plato on Music, Soul and Body, trans. Sophie Henderson (New
York: Cambridge University Press, 2010).
The term Neoplatonism was first used during the nineteenth century to refer to the work
of Plotinus and his followers. Cf., Raymond Erickson, “Boethius, Eriugena, and the
Neoplatonism of Musica and Scolica Enchiriadis,” in Musical Humanism and its Legacy: Essays
in Honor of Claude V. Palisca, ed. Nancy Baker and Barbara Hanning (Stuyvesant: Pendragon,
1992), 53n.1: “Historians of philosophy generally refer to the pre-medieval stages of Platonism
after Plato himself (d. 347 BCE) as the ‘Old Academy’ (Plato’s immediate followers), ‘Middle
Platonism’ (first century BCE through the second century CE) and ‘Neoplatonism’ (third through
sixth century CE). The seminal figure of pre-medieval Neoplatonism is Plotinus (c. 204–70),
author of the influential Enneads, which were reorganized and defended by his student Porphyry.”
I will use the term Platonism broadly to refer to the philosophical traditions traced back to Plato
and more specifically when referring to Plato’s actual works. I will use Neoplatonism when
referring to Platonic thought as it developed after Plotinus.
Glen Wegge, “Musical References in the Neoplatonic Philosophy of Plotinus” (PhD
diss., Indiana University, 1999), 14.
2 Pseudo-Dionysius, and Eriugena, who is rightly considered a culminating figure in Western
Eriugena’s life and writings are described more fully in Chapter 2; for now, we should
note that the century in which Eriugena worked coincides with the “critical nexus” of “tonesystem or scale, mode or tone, and musical notation” described by Charles Atkinson.7 The ninth
century was when the first extant medieval music treatises were penned, when the foundations of
Western music theory were laid in the first notations of chant, and embryonic principles for
polyphony were described in the Enchiriadis documents. In fact, the intellectual achievements of
Carolingian civilization in the eighth and ninth centuries were so vast and across so many
disciplines that the era has been termed the Carolingian Renaissance or Renovatio.
The Carolingian Renovatio
Eriugena lived during a flourishing of culture, learning, and ecclesiastical reform that had
begun under the reign of Charlemagne (742–814 CE), with the assistance of Alcuin of York (c.
735–804 CE). The “Carolingian Renaissance” is also sometimes described as the “Carolingian
renovatio,” since Charlemagne and his successors considered their civilization to be a renewal of
the Christian Roman Empire, though cultural gains at this time seem to pale in comparison with
the so-called Humanist Renaissance beginning around the fifteenth century. Additionally, either
term, renaissance or renovatio, has seemed appropriate when considering the relatively silent
period stretching from final fall of Rome to the era of Charlemagne.8 However it is named, this
Wegge, “Musical References,” 88.
Charles Atkinson, The Critical Nexus (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009), 4.
In the case of musical culture, a similar situation is observed in the complete lack of
Byzantine musical sources between the fourth and ninth centuries. Cf., Evgenij Gertsman, The
Lost Centuries of Byzantine Music, trans. Svetlana Buko (St. Petersburg: Ministry of Culture of
3 period included educational advances across a vast territory overseen by powerful centralized
governments, beginning with Charlemagne himself, who ruled much of modern Europe at the
height of his power as Holy Roman Emperor.
Charlemagne’s ambitious aims were spelled out clearly in two important capitularies, De
litteris colendis (c. 795 CE) and Admonitio generalis (789 CE). In the Admonitio generalis,
Charlemagne promoted the establishment of schools across his empire to teach literacy,
especially the Bible, mathematics, and music. He acknowledged that many documents important
to performing religious rites, musical and otherwise, needed correction to bring all his subjects
into conformity with Catholic faith, properly practiced. Beyond promoting and privileging the
religious life of his subjects, Charlemagne also advocated for ancient learning generally. In De
litteris colendis, he wrote,
the Russian Federation, 2001). Gertsman judiciously points out that a lack of musical sources
does not necessarily indicate a lack of musical activity and cultivation; it only indicates a lack of
sources (11). In his chapter “The Revival of Learning,” in The Oxford History of Byzantium
(New York: Oxford University Press, 2002), Cyril Mango discusses the remarkable similarities
between the ninth-century revivals of learning in both East and West: “Both were animated by a
vision of the renovation of the Roman state, meaning not the pagan, but the Christian empire of
Constantine and his successors; both promoted the cultivation of a correct, i.e. ancient, linguistic
idiom, which entailed, on the one hand, the assemblage of the relics of “classical” literature for
purposes of imitation and, on the other, the compilation of manuals, compendia, and other aids to
learning; both were accompanied by the introduction of a more compact script, the minuscule,
for book production; both saw the establishment of a palace school; both extended into the visual
arts, more particularly the precious arts . . . The similarities were so pronounced that some kind
of mutual influence naturally suggests itself. That is not a subject, however, to which much
scholarly attention has been directed” (215).
4 Hortamur vos litterarum studia non solum non negligere, verum etiam humillima et Deo
placita intentione ad hoc certatim discere, ut facilius et rectius divinarum scripturarum
mysteria valeatis penetrare. Cum autem in sacris paginis schemata, tropi et caetera his
similia inserta inveniantur, nulli dubium est, quod ea unusquisque legens tanto citius
spiritualiter intellegit, quanto prius in litterarum magisterio plenius instructus fuerit.9
We urge you not only not to neglect the study of [ancient] literature, but to learn it
eagerly, with humble and devout attention to God, so that you may be able to penetrate
more easily and correctly the mysteries of the divine scriptures. Since figures of speech,
tropes, and the like may be found within the sacred pages, there can be no doubt that
anyone reading them can more quickly understand them spiritually to the extent to which
he has first been fully instructed in the mastery of [nonspiritual] literature.10
Indeed, Charlemagne’s empire building necessitated a class of literate, cultured civil
servants, and his policies for public education no doubt served that end as well. Charlemagne
attracted to his court leading thinkers and scholars from all over Europe, e.g., the Spaniard
Theodulf of Orléans, Agobard, the grammarian Peter of Pisa, Paul the Deacon, Paulinus of
Aquileia, Dungal, Dicuil the geographer, and, most notably, Alcuin of York, Charlemagne’s
closest royal advisor. As an example of the intellectual values of Charlemagne’s court, one can
Karoli epistola de litteris colendis, in Monumenta Germaniae Historica, ed. Alfred
Boretius (Hannover: Impensis Bibliopolii Hahniani, 1881), 79.
Atkinson, trans., Critical Nexus, 51.
5 note their fondness for biblical and classical cognomens, e.g., Charlemagne was referred to as
David and Josiah as well as Caesar.11
With the general increase of literacy and greater value placed on the written word,
monastic centers increasingly produced scholars along with manuscripts for them to study. For
example, the monastery at Corbie was famous for its library and scriptorium and for producing
such intellects as the theologian Ratramnus (d. ca. 868 CE).12 Theological controversy was a
primary intellectual pursuit in the Carolingian era; for example, a Spanish variant of
Adoptionism was a major issue for Alcuin (could Jesus have been adopted as God’s Son?), along
with specifying the exact procession of the Trinity. The dispute over Iconoclasm was related to
larger political issues of the era and across the ancient world, such as interactions with the Greek
East. In 730 CE, Byzantine Emperor Leo III had forbidden images in worship, and a struggle
between iconophiles and iconoclasts ensued. The Ecumenical Council in Nicaea in 787 CE
restored the use of images in worship, but Charlemagne, unsatisfied with the decision,
commissioned his theologians to study the matter. They produced the Libri Carolini, which
argued, among other things, for more centralized leadership of the Church in Rome and that
religious images be allowed in churches, though not worshiped.13
At the end of his reign, Charlemagne shared authority with his son and heir Louis the
Pious (778-840 CE), who, in 814 CE, became sole Emperor. The opinion of Lupus of Ferrières
(805-62 CE), that educational achievements lagged under Louis the Pious, is disputed, and it
Dermot Moran, The Philosophy of John Scottus Eriugena: A Study of Idealism in the
Middle Ages (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), 8.
Moran, The Philosophy of John Scottus, 12.
Moran, The Philosophy of John Scottus, 14-15.
6 may be that learning and scholarship held strong throughout his reign.14 In 840 CE, Louis the
Pious died, and the vast kingdom was divided among his three sons: Louis the German (r. 840–
76 CE) controlled East Frankland, Lothair (r. 840–55 CE) inherited a middle kingdom stretching
from the Netherlands to modern Italy, and Charles II (r. 840–77 CE) received West Frankland.
Lothair had inherited the title Emperor, and the three sons of Louis the Pious supposedly held
After a period of bloody civil war, the territories were finally divided into three
independent units at the Treaty of Verdun in 843 CE, and Lothair maintained precedence. At his
death in 855 CE, Lothair’s portion of the kingdom was itself divided among his three sons
(Lothair II, Charles, and Louis II, who became Emperor). Lothair II ruled the northern portion
(Lotharingia) but died without an heir, and his uncles eventually divided this territory between
them in 870 CE at the Treaty of Mersen. In 875 CE, Louis II died, and Charles II received the
title Emperor, which he held until his death two years later.
Although only seventeen years old when he was made king of West Frankland, Charles II
(823–77 CE) immediately began sponsoring educational projects—while fending off Viking
raiders and the machinations of family members. As had Charlemagne, Charles II surrounded
himself with intellectual advisors, e.g., Hincmar, Bishop of Rheims (806-82 CE), Lupus of
Ferrières, and eventually, John Scottus Eriugena. Also similar to Charlemagne, Charles II
initiated programs of cultural patronage, which included the production of illuminated
manuscripts, architectural projects, and the encouragement of intellectual debates and treatises.
For example, in spite of disputes between the Christian East and West (as in controversies over
Cf., P. Riché, “Les Irlandais et les princes carolingiens aux VIIIe et IXe siècles,” in Die
Iren und Europa im früheren Mittelalter, ed. H. Löwe (Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta, 1982).
7 the filioque in the Nicene Creed),15 under Charles II, Eriugena read Eastern authors such as
Gregory of Nyssa, Maximus the Confessor, and Pseudo-Dionysius, translating and commenting
on their works.16 In fact, Charles II directly encouraged Eriugena’s intellectual engagement with
Greek theology.17 In the preface to his translation of Pseudo-Dionysius, Eriugena addressed
Charles II with the following words:
Hinc est, quod et ingenioli nostri parvitatem non dedignati estis impellere, nec nos velut
otiosos inertiaeque somno sopitos perpessi estis dormire, ne, dum hesperiis solummodo
apicibus studium impendimus, ad purissimos copiosissimosque Graium latices recurrere,
haustumque inde sumere non valeremus. Jussionibus itaque vestris neque volentes neque
valentes obsistere, rudes admodum tirones adhuc helladicorum studiorum, fatemur—quid
enim pudeat nos fateri vestrae serenitudini?—ultra vires nostras ipso tamen duce, qui est
lux mentium et illuminat abscondita tenebrarum, libros quattuor sancti patris Dionysii
Areopagitae episcopi Athenarum, quos scripsit ad Timotheum, episcopum Ephesiorum, et
decem epistolas ejusdem de Graeco in Latinim transtulimus.
For more on ninth-century religious controversies, cf. Moran, The Philosophy of John
Concerning Eriugena’s engagement with the works of Pseudo-Dionysius, the Ambigua
of St. Maximus the Confessor, and Gregory of Nyssa’s De hominis opifico, I. P. SheldonWilliams writes, “Thus he fortuitously became acquainted with three of the most characteristic
and important documents of the Greek Christian Platonism . . . ” (“Johannes Scottus Eriugena,”
in The Cambridge History of Later Greek and Early Medieval Philosophy, ed. A. H. Armstrong
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1967), 519–20.
Moran, The Philosophy of John Scottus, 49.
8 This is why you did not disdain to impel our feeble talent, nor permit us to slumber on,
idle and drowsily inert, lest we devote our interest to the summits of only Western things
and not have the strength to repair to the pure and plenteous waters of the Greeks and
drink there. Therefore, we were neither willing nor able to resist your commands, while
still very unskilled novices in Greek studies—we confess it, for why should we be
ashamed to confess it to your Serenity? We have translated from Greek into Latin four
books of the holy father Dionysius the Areopagite, Bishop of Athens, who wrote to
Timothy, Bishop of Ephesus, and ten of his letters—something beyond our powers, but
we were led by Him who is the light of minds and illuminates dark secrets.18
Charles II’s ability as a ruler can be illustrated in the crises that plagued the first decades
of his reign. As recipient of lands in which he possessed no blood ties, Charles II was in a
relatively weaker position than Louis the German and Lothair when his father Louis the Pious
died, in 840 CE. By shifting alliances from one brother to the other, he was able to establish
himself, for a time. A crisis came, in 858 CE, when Louis invaded while Charles II was
distracted, fighting Vikings on the Seine. Charles maneuvered ably by gaining support from his
nobles and the church through special, financially advantageous allowances, such as minting
coins, holding markets, and charging tolls.19
As a scholar and courtier in Charles II’s retinue, Eriugena evidenced the practiced skills
of a poet and a facile handling of the ins and outs of court life; both characteristics can be read in
Auribus Aebraicis, a poem that praises and intercedes for Charles II. Michael Herren argues for
MacInnis, trans., PL121:1031C-D. Quoted by John O’Meara in Eriugena (Oxford, UK:
Clarendon, 1988), 52-53.
Moran, The Philosophy of John Scottus, 17.
9 870 CE as the date of composition, shortly after Charles II occupied Aachen in 869 CE, sitting
on his grandfather’s throne to observe Christmas Mass that year, and that the poem expresses
Charles II’s hope to build a church dedicated to Mary at Compiègne similar to his
grandfather’s.20 The following is an excerpt from Eriugena’s poem Auribus Aebraicis (lines 82101):
Magna dei genitrix, ter felix, sancta Maria,
Te laudant caeli, te votis inclytat orbis.
Proxima sis Karolo tutrix, munimen et altum,
Qui tibi mirifice praeclaram fabricat aedem,
Aedes marmoreis varie constructa columnis,
Alta domus pulcre centeno normate facta.
Aspice polygonos flexus arcusque volutos,
Compages laterum similes, capitella basesque,
Turres, turiculas, laquearia, daedala tecta,
Obliquas tyridas, ialini luminis haustus,
Intus picturas, lapidum pavimenta gradusque,
Circum quaque stoas, armaria, pastaforia,
Sursum deorsum populos altaria circum,
Lampadibus plenas faros altasque coronas.
Omnia collucent gemmis auroque coruscant;
Michael Herren, “Eriugena’s ‘Aulae Sidereae’, the ‘Codex Aureus’, and the Palatine
Church of St. Mary at Compiègne,” Studi Medievali 28 (1987): 607.
10 Pallia, corinae circundant undique templum.
Ipse throno celso fultus rex prospicit omnes
Vertice sublimi gestans diadema paternum,
Plena manus sciptris enchiridion aurea bactra;
Heros magnanimus longaevus vivat in annos.
Great Mother of God, thrice blessed, holy Mary, the heavens praise you, the world
glorifies you with its prayers. Be a tall bulwark and close guardian to Charles, who is
building an outstanding temple for you in wondrous fashion. The church is constructed
on marble pillars of diverse colors. The high house is beautifully built on the square of
one hundred. Behold, the many-angled folds, the curving arches, the consistent fastening
of the sides, the capitals and bases, the towers, breastwork, panelled ceiling, and skilfully
crafted roof, oblique windows, and draughts of light through the glass. Inside, there are
pictures, a floor and steps made of stone; around the portico, in all directions are chests
and sacristies; there are people up and down around the altars and lamps filled with lights,
crowns on high. Everything shines with gems and flashes with gold. Veils and hangings
surround the temple on all sides. The king himself, supported on his high throne and
wearing the crown of his fathers on his exalted head, looks over everyone. His hand is
filled with sceptres and handles of Bactrian gold. May the magnanimous hero enjoy a
Herren, trans., in “Eriugena’s ‘Aulae Sidereae’, the ‘Codex Aureus’, and the Palatine
Church of St. Mary at Compiègne,” Studi Medievali 28 (1987): 594-95, (PL121:1236D).
11 Although Eriugena lived a century after the Admonitio generalis and De litteris colendis,
it is evident from his vast and far-ranging scholarly output that the cultural ideals presented in
these earlier Carolingian documents were still alive and well, late in the ninth century. Generally
speaking, Eriugena’s writings were markedly speculative, mining past authorities and
synthesizing new formulations.
Significant Authors and Authorities during the Ninth Century
As a part of their support for learning and scholarship, Carolingian rulers, such as Charles
II, amassed large libraries, especially containing works from Antiquity deemed authoritative. In
ninth-century scholastic writing, it was expected that knowledge be built upon the foundation of
earlier accepted writers, and some examples of influential works read by Eriugena are listed
below. If the following litany of authors and authorities read and studied during the ninth century
seems a rather broad overview, it should be remembered that, almost without exception, each
discusses musica in some way or deals in an aspect of philosophy to which the ars musica speaks.
This attests to the comprehensive nature of learning at the time and the central importance of
music studied as a liberal art.
To begin with, Eriugena, as a typical scholar of the Carolingian renovatio, knew the Latin
Bible and church fathers, especially Augustine (354-430 CE). In fact, throughout his writings,
Eriugena takes special pains to stress his submission to Scripture and consonance with Catholic
faith, perhaps in response to his conciliar condemnations. For example, Eriugena wrote, in
Siquidem de deo nil aliud caste pieque uiuentibus studioseque ueritatem quaerentibus
dicendum uel cogitandum, nisi quae in sancta scriptura reperiuntur; neque aliis nisi ipsius
12 significationibus translationibusque utendum his qui de deo siue quid credant siue
disputent. Quis enim de natura ineffabili quippiam a se ipso repertum dicere praesumat
praeter quod illa ipsa de se ipsa in suis sanctis organis, theologis dico, modulata est?
Accordingly, nothing else must be said or thought concerning God by those who live
pure and pious lives and are earnest seekers after the truth except what is found in Holy
Scripture, and no meanings or metaphors but its own are to be used by those who either
believe in or discourse about God. Indeed, who would presume to say about the Ineffable
Nature anything invented by himself, except such meanings as it [i.e., the Ineffable
Nature] has itself played concerning itself upon its sacred instruments, I mean, the
Of all Latin authorities, Eriugena quotes most often from Augustine (e.g., De Genesi ad litteram,
De civitate Dei, De musica, De ordine, etc.), and even names Augustine his intellectual father.23
Eriugena, literate in Greek, read and translated Greek fathers as well; especially Gregory
of Nyssa (e.g., De hominis opificio), but also Basil (e.g., Hexaëmeron) and Gregory Nazianzus,
in addition to later Greek theologians such as Maximus the Confessor (e.g., Ambigua) and
Pseudo-Dionysius, who is discussed more fully below. Eriugena also knew Origen, the
MacInnis, trans., Periphyseon Book I, CCCM 161, 93 (PL122:509B).
John O’Meara, “Contrasting Approaches to Neoplatonic Immaterialism: Augustine and
Eriugena,” in From Athens to Chatres: Neoplatonism and Medieval Thought, ed. Haijo Jan
Westra (New York: Brill, 1992), 175.
13 Alexandrian philosopher; for example, Eriugena quotes from Origen’s De principiis, and their
thinking aligns on several important issues, such as God’s eternal act of creation.24
Regarding his facility with Greek, Eriugena’s self-deprecating statements to Charles II in
the preface to his Latin translation of Pseudo-Dionysius, quoted above, should be understood as
an example of the forms of humility and submission assumed by writers at that time. But
Eriugena did make several repeated mistakes in his translations, so one may safely surmise that
his knowledge of Greek was impressive but not perfect. For example, Eriugena often mistook
οὔκουν for οὐκοῦν and the aorist tense for the imperfect.25 It is significant to note that Eriugena’s
contributions as a translator of Greek lay not only in the ideas he made available in Latin, but
also in the wording he employed. To this point, O’Meara wrote, “[Eriugena’s] translations made
an original contribution to philosophy, inasmuch as by them he introduced into the West not only
a philosophical vocabulary bearing the marks of Aristotle, but also Pseudo-Dionysian ideas,
cosmological doctrines coming from Gregory of Nyssa, and spiritual approaches derived from
Maximus the Confessor.”26
De Nuptiis Philologiae et Mercurii by Martianus Minneus Felix Capella (fl. early fifth
century CE) was widely read and discussed throughout the Middle Ages as a summary of the
liberal arts.27 In addition to introducing the artes, De Nuptiis also presented a primer of
Neoplatonic thought and summarized aspects of Aristotle’s categories. To summarize the plot of
Cf., Periphyseon V, CCCM 165, 98ff (PL122:929Aff.).
O’Meara, Eriugena, 53.
O’Meara, Eriugena, 55.
For a translation, see William Harris Stahl’s and Richard Johnson’s Martianus Capella
and the Seven Liberal Arts, Volume II, The Marriage of Philology and Mercury (New York:
Columbia University Press, 1977). For the Latin, see James Willis’s edition, Martianus Capella
(Leipzig: Teubner, 1983).
14 De Nuptiis, Mercury, seeking a wife, is advised to take Philology, symbolizing human learning.
She ascends through the heavens, is deified, and joins the court of the gods. To Philology,
Mercury presents a dowry of seven maidens, symbolizing the seven liberal arts, each of whom
discourses on her respective discipline, and then Mercury and Philology are wed. The abstruse
vocabulary and recondite sentences of De Nuptiis necessitated a tradition of glosses, in which
Eriugena participated; a more thorough description of Eriugena’s commentary on Capella is
included below, along with the editions and translations consulted for this project.
Another ancient authority on philosophy and learning read during the ninth century was
Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius (ca. 480-520 CE). Eriugena quoted Boethius’s De
institutione arithmeticae and Theological Tractates, and surely knew De consolatione
philosophiae and De institutione musica—though these works are not cited explicitly in his
oeuvre.28 Henry Chadwick summarizes the question of whether Eriugena knew De institutione
musica this way:
Except for the Arithmetica, it is not easy to be confident how much of Boethius is known
to [Eriugena]. Allusions to the Arithmetica are frequent (PL122: 498B-C, 505B, 651Bff.,
655A–B). His doctrine that the Liberal Arts are created by God (748D–749A, etc.) is not
directly anticipated by Boethius. But music and harmonic principles are for him part of
the structure of the cosmos, exemplified in the harmony of the spheres. It is hard to affirm
Cf., Marie-Elisabeth Duchez, “Jean Scot Erigene, premier lecteur du De institutione
musica de Boece?” in Eriugena: Studien zu seinen Quellen, ed. Werner Beierwaltes (Heidelburg:
Carl Winter Universitätsverlag, 1980), 165–87.
15 or to deny that he had read Boethius’ Institutio musica, to which he makes no explicit
reference. In ideas the kinship is obvious, and ignorance is unlikely.29
The Institutiones divinarum et saecularium litterarum30 of Cassiodorus (ca. 490-583 CE)
and the Etymologiae31 of Isidore of Seville (c. 560-636 CE) were both encyclopedic summaries
of knowledge and introductions to philosophy used by medieval scholars. For example, Isidore’s
Etymologiae proved useful in explaining unfamiliar terminology during the shadowy period
stretching from the death of Boethius to the Carolingian era. Both Cassiodorus and Isidore
mention the ars musica and include it as part of a comprehensive educational program.
As was the case for most scholars of the ninth century, Eriugena’s only access to Plato
was through Calcidius’s partial translation of (through Section 53C) and commentary on
Timaeus (completed late fourth century CE).32 This portion of Timaeus describes the origin of
the cosmos and mankind. A work similar to Calcidius’s commentary on Timaeus is Macrobius’s
Boethius, the Consolations of Music, Logic, Theology, and Philosophy (New York:
Oxford, 1981), 297n.11. Cf. John Marenbon, Early Medieval Philosophy (480–1150): An
Introduction (Boston: Routledge, 1988), 47–48.
Cf., Cassiodorus, An Introduction to Divine and Human Readings, trans. Leslie Jones
(New York: Octagon Books, 1966).
Cf., Isidore of Seville, Etymologies, trans. Stephen A. Barney, W. J. Lewis, J. A. Beach,
Oliver Berghof (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006).
Stephen Gersh, Concord in Discourse: Harmonics and Semiotics in Late Classical and
Early Medieval Platonism (New York: Mouton de Gruyter, 1996), 129.
16 commentary on Cicero’s Somnium Scipionis, another speculative description of the cosmos that
Eriugena quoted in his Annotations.33
All these authorities, known to Eriugena, were studied by ninth-century scholars and
frequently cited in music treatises from the ninth century, e.g., Musica Disciplina by Aurelian of
Réôm (f. 840–50 CE), Epistola de armonica institutione by Regino of Prüm (ca. 842–915 CE),
and De Musica by Hucbald of St. Amand (ca. 850–930 CE). The famous Enchiriadis documents
are a definitive example; throughout Musica and Scholica enchiriadis the authors survey
theoretical knowledge of the past (e.g., defining the modes, probing connections between music
and human nature, and calculating the music of the spheres) and explain issues connected to
Carolingian musical praxis (e.g., dasian notation and the improvisation of organum), all the
while quoting many of the aforementioned authors.34 So many ancient authorities could be called
on to address the subject of music, and to good effect, precisely because of the consistent
inclusion of music among the liberal arts, a comprehensive educational program inherited from
The Liberal Arts during the Ninth Century
The liberal arts were those studies considered in Antiquity to be fundamental to freeborn
persons and to their living a virtuous and profitable life. The standard list of seven disciplines
(i.e., those described by Capella) was generally divided into two groups: the trivium (grammar,
dialectic, rhetoric) and quadrivium (geometry, arithmetic, astronomy, and music). Although the
arts were considered together as an essential summary of knowledge, teachers believed there was
Cf., Commentary on the Dream of Scipio by Macrobius, ed. William Stahl (New York:
Columbia University Press, 1990).
Cf., Musica Enchiriadis and Scholica Enchiriadis, ed. Raymond Erickson (New
Haven: Yale University Press, 1995).
17 an educational progression as one moved from the trivium, or language arts, to the quadrivium,
or mathematical arts.35 The following quotation presents a description of the quadrivial arts by
Boethius, who actually coined the term quadrivium in his De arithmetica:
Hoc igitur illud quadruvium est, quo his viandum sit, quibus excellentior animus a
nobiscum procreatis sensibus ad intellegentiae certiora perducitur. Sunt enim quidam
gradus certaeque progressionum dimensiones, quibus ascendi progredique possit, ut
animi illum oculum, qui, ut ait Plato, multis oculis corporalibus salvari constituique sit
dignior, quod eo solo lumine vestigari vel inspici veritas queat, hunc inquam oculum
demersum orbatumque corporeis sensibus hae disciplinae rursus inluminent.36
Therefore, this is that fourfold path [quadrivium], which is to be traversed by those whose
more excellent mind is led away from our bodily senses to a higher level of knowing. For
there are definite steps and clear degrees of progressions by which one is able to ascend
and to progress, so that these disciplines might again bring light to that eye of the soul—
which, as Plato says, is far more worthy to be saved and cultivated than a multitude of
corporeal eyes, for Truth is searched for and perceived by the light of this eye alone—yet,
he asserts, that eye is submerged and laid waste through the corporeal senses.37
In a following section, I discuss more fully the Neoplatonic context for the liberal arts
and their relation to the three-part division of philosophy observed in Platonic thought since
Plutarch: ethics, physics, and epoptics.
Boethius, De institutione arithmetica, ed. Gottfried Friedlein (Frankfurt: Minerva,
Bower, trans., “Quadrivial Reasoning,” 59.
18 The liberal arts remained essential components of learning throughout the Middle Ages, and no
less for Eriugena.
Eriugena’s earliest datable work, De divina praedestinatione (c. 851 CE),38 was his
contribution to the predestination debate stirred up by Gottschalk of Fulda (ca. 800–868 CE),
discussed more fully below. In his treatise, Eriugena expounded his own view, the impossibility
of double predestination, and argued that Gottschalk’s grave errors (stultissima crudelissimaque
insania) stemmed from his lack of learning in the liberal arts.39 For example, Eriugena wrote,
Therefore, I would think that the gravest error of those who confusedly and, hence,
fatally reduce to their own distorted meaning the opinions of the venerable fathers,
especially Saint Augustine, had its beginnings from an ignorance of the useful arts, which
wisdom itself wanted to be its own companions and investigators, and, on top of that,
ignorance also of Greek writings in which the interpretation of predestination generates
no mist of ambiguity.40
But Eriugena’s argument turned out to be a liability; in his rebuttal, De praedestinatione
contra Joannem Scotum (quoted below), Prudentius of Troyes accused Eriugena of being led
astray 1) by his extensive study of the liberal arts and 2) by Martianus Capella in particular:
John Scottus Eriugena, De Divina Praedestinatione, ed. Goulven Madec, Corpvs
Christianorvm Continuatio Mediaevalis, Volume 50 (Turnhout: Brepols, 1978).
Gottschalk had argued his case from early Church leaders like Augustine, asserting that
since God’s will is immutable, the eternal destiny of souls ad vitam or ad mortem had been
decided before creation (Moran, The Philosophy of John Scottus, 30).
Eriugena, Treatise on Divine Predestination [De Divina Praedestinatione], trans. Mary
Brennan (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1998), 117 (Chapter 18).
19 1) Jam nunc in nomine [Dei] et adjutorio labyrinthum tuarum haereseon adituri, gratiam
ejus sine quo nihil sumus, scimus et possumus, invocemus, ut ipsa duce tuas
inextricabiles moras penetrare easque inoffenso gressu evadere valeamus, nequaquam tui
quadruvii innodationibus ac depravationibus, sed auctoritati et veritati medullitus
Now, in the name of God and by His help, as we are about to assail the labyrinth of your
heresies—for without His grace, we are nothing, we know nothing, and we can do
nothing—let us invoke Him so that, by this guide, we should be strong enough to
penetrate your tangled obstacles and to avoid them by walking blamelessly. By no means
will we lean on the knots and depravities of your quadrivium, but thoroughly upon
authority and truth.41
2) Nam ille tuus Capella, exceptis aliis, vel maxime te in hunc labyrinthum induxisse
creditur, cujus meditationi magis quam veritati evangelicae animum appulisti.
For that Capella of yours is believed to have led others into this labyrinth—but especially
you—to whose thinking you have directed your mind by greater meditation than to the
truth of the Gospel.42
MacInnis, trans., PL115:1020D.
MacInnis, trans., PL115:1294A-B.
20 As a result of this controversy over predestination, Eriugena was condemned at the synods of
Valence in 855 CE and Langres in 859 CE, but he was evidently protected and able to continue
his career as a scholar.43
The two attitudes toward liberal learning expressed in the account above, Eriugena’s high
regard and Prudentius’s suspicion, were both common during the Carolingian era, as they had
been among Christians in late Antiquity. At the same time that ancient authorities were respected
and their works copied and treasured, some wondered just how far they could be trusted,
inasmuch as they were not Christian. Although doubts persisted for some Carolingians, no less
an authority than St. Augustine had argued that liberal learning was positive for Christians. For
example, in the following example from De doctrina christiana, Augustine urges study of music
as a liberal art, even from non-Christian sources, because of the benefits it can afford in
But whether the fact is, as Varro has related, or is not, so still we ought not to give up
music because of the superstition of the heathen, if we can derive anything from it that is
of use for the understanding of Holy Scripture; nor does it follow that we must busy
ourselves with their theatrical trumpery because we enter upon an investigation about
harps and other instruments, that may help us to lay hold upon spiritual things. For we
ought not to refuse to learn letters because they say that Mercury discovered them; nor,
Moran, The Philosophy of John Scottus, 32ff.
The sorts of insights Augustine mentions in De doctrina christiana as examples of
those provided by the liberal arts do seem rather unimpressive. For example, in the case of music,
he thought the ten-stringed psaltery (cf. Psalm 32:2, Vulgate) possibly corresponded to the
Decalogue (De doctrina christiana, §26).
21 because they have dedicated temples to Justice and Virtue, and prefer to worship in the
form of stones things that ought to have their place in the heart, ought we on that account
to forsake justice and virtue. Nay, but let every good and true Christian understand that
whatever truth may be found, it belongs to his Master; and while he recognizes and
acknowledges the truth, even in their religious literature, let him reject the figments of
superstition, and let him grieve over and avoid men who, “when they knew God, glorified
him not as God neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their
foolish heart was darkened.45
As can be read below, the liberal arts had also been championed by other respected
Christian authorities such as 1) Cassiodorus in Institutiones diuinarum et saecularium litterarum
and 2) St. Isidore in Etymologiarum. For these authors, music was a fundamental subject of study
because the order observed throughout creation corresponds to harmonic principles:
1) The discipline of music is diffused through all the actions of our life. First, it is true
that if we perform the commandments of the Creator and with pure minds obey the rules
he has laid down, then every word we speak, every pulsation of our veins, is related by
musical rhythms to the powers of harmony. Music, indeed, is the knowledge of proper
measurement [scientia bene modulandi]. If we live virtuously, we are constantly proved
to be under its discipline, but when we commit injustice we are without music. The
heavens and the earth, indeed, all things in them, which are directed by a higher power,
Augustine, On Christian Doctrine, Book II:18, accessed February 3, 2014, Christian
Classics Ethereal Library, < http://www.ccel.org>. Translator Unknown.
22 share in this discipline of music, for Pythagoras shows that this universe was founded by
and can be governed by music.46
2) Thus, without music no discipline can be perfect, for there is nothing without it. The
very universe, it is said, is held together by a certain harmony of sounds, and the heavens
themselves are made to revolve by the modulation of harmony. Music moves the feelings
and changes the emotions. In battles, moreover, the sound of the trumpet rouses the
combatants, and the more furious the trumpeting, the more valorous their spirit. A chant,
likewise, encourages the rowers, music soothes the mind so that it can endure toil, and
song assuages the weariness encountered in any task. Music also composes distraught
minds, as may be read of David, who freed Saul from the unclean spirit by the art of
melody. The very beasts also, even serpents, birds, and dolphins, are enticed by music to
listen to her melody. Indeed, every word we speak, every pulsation of our veins, is related
by musical rhythms to the powers of harmony.47
As a short case study in ninth-century thinking with regards to music as a liberal art, one
could consider Musica Disciplina by Aurelian of Réôm (fl. 840-50), the earliest extant medieval
treatise of music. Although not mentioned by contemporaneous authors, Musica Disciplina
provides helpful insight into Carolingian musical practices and repertoire as well as the
development of music theory at that time. Musica Disciplina is divided into two sections: one
In Source Readings in Music History, ed. Oliver Strunk and Leo Treitler (New York:
Norton, 1998), 144.
In Source Readings in Music History, ed. Oliver Strunk and Leo Treitler (New York:
Norton, 1998), 150.
23 with quotes about music from ancient sources (e.g., Boethius,48 Cassiodorus, Isidore of Seville,
etc.) and one containing an explanation of the eight modes (here they are called tones). In this
latter section, Aurelian describes the origins, importance, and genres of plainchant, and it is
fascinating to observe how he, along with subsequent ninth-century music theorists, attempted to
apply the Pythagorean diatonic musical system to the repertoire of plainchant sung by the
In contrast to his contemporaries and forebears, for whom liberal arts such as music were
often simply an encyclopedic body of knowledge, Eriugena’s views on the liberal arts were
nuanced and complex.50 To begin with, he asserted that the trivium and quadrivium constituted a
perfect statement of knowledge that come already integrated within the immortal human soul:
Num tibi uerisimile uidetur certaeque rationi conueniens omnes liberales disciplinas in ea
parte, quae ENEPΓEIA (id est operatio) animae dicitur, aestimari? Siquidem a
philosophis ueraciter quaesitum repertumque est artes esse aeternas et semper
In quoting Boethius’s De institutione musica, Aurelian appropriated Boethius’s
distinction between musicus (a scholar who judges music in intellectual ways) and cantor (a
mere singer), but argues in favor of the cantor; Aurelian wants the cantor to be skilled and
insightful through the study of music theory. Aurelian also reproduced Boethius’s tripartite
division of music into musica mundana, musica humana, and musica instrumentalis.
Additionally, Aurelian included descriptions of music’s power in the myth of Orpheus, who is
said to have tamed beasts with music, the myth of Pythagoras discovering the consonant
harmonic ratios while walking by a blacksmith’s shop, and, of course, the music of the spheres.
It should also be noted that Musica Disciplina contains some of the earliest examples
of musical notation in the West.
Cf., Herbert Schueller, The Idea of Music: An Introduction to Musical Aesthetics in
Antiquity and the Middle Ages (Kalamazoo: Medieval Institute Publications, 1988), 291.
24 immutabiliter animae adhaerere ita ut non quasi accidentia quaedam ipsius esse uideantur,
sed naturales uirtutes actionesque nullo modo ab ea recedentes nec recedere ualentes nec
aliunde uenientes sed naturaliter ei insitas, ita ut ambiguum sit utrum ipsae aeternitatem
ei praestant quoniam aeternae sunt eique semper adhaereant ut aeterna sit, an ratione
subiecti quod est anima artibus aeternitas administratur—OΥCIA enim animae et uirtus
et actio aeternae sunt—an ita sibi inuicem coadhaereant, dum omnes aeternae sint, ut a se
inuicem segregari non possint.
Does it not seem true to you and consistent with sound reason that all the liberal arts are
considered to be in that part which is called the ἐνέργεια, that is the operation, of the
soul? Accordingly, it has been rightly sought and found by the philosophers that the arts
are eternal and are always immutably attached to the soul so that they seem to be not
certain accidents of it, but natural powers and actions which by no means withdraw nor
are willing to withdraw nor come from anywhere, but are innate in it naturally, so that it
is uncertain whether it is the arts which confer eternity upon it, because they are eternal
and eternally attached to it, or whether it is by reason of the subject, which is the soul,
that eternity is supplied to the arts—for the οὐσία and the power and the operation of the
soul are eternal—or whether they mutually cohere, while all being eternal, so that they
cannot be separated from one another.51
MacInnis, trans., Periphyseon I, CCCM 161, 62–63 (PL121:486C).
25 Eriugena even went so far as to equate the arts with the eternal Logos, since Christ
Himself is the end of all knowledge and inquiry.52 For example, in the following excerpt from his
Expositiones in Hierarchiam Caelestem, Eriugena describes the arts as liberales and naturales (a
specification Calvin Bower argues was influential on Regino of Prüm, who wrote of musica
naturales and musica artificiales):53
Ita naturales et liberales discipline in unam eamdemque interne contemplationis
significationem adunantur, qua summus fons totius sapientie, qui est Christus, undique
per diuersas theologie speculationes insinuatur. Et fortassis hoc est quod per Psalmistam
de beato uiro dicitur: “Et erit tanquam lignum quod plantatum est secus decursus
aquarum,” hoc est, sicut Christus erit, in cuius significationem typicam omnes naturales
artes, intra quarum terminos tota diuina concluditur scriptura, concurrunt. Nulla enim
sacra scriptura est, que regulis liberalium careat disciplinarum.
Thus, the natural and liberal disciplines are united in one and the same signification of
internal contemplation, which is the greatest fount of all wisdom, who is Christ, in all
Moran, The Philosophy of John Scottus, 135.
That is, just as Regino described the study of music experienced corporally as a sort of
gateway to understanding music that is transcendent, he drew on the tradition practiced by
Eriugena, who understood all the liberal arts, including music, as leading the mind and soul
toward ultimate truth (Calvin Bower, “Quadrivial Reasoning and Allegorical Revelation: ‘MetaKnowledge’ and Carolingian Approaches to Knowing,” in Carolingian Scholarship and
Martianus Capella: Ninth-Century Commentary Traditions on ‘De nuptiis’ in Context, ed.
Sinead O’Sullivan and Mariken Teeuwen (Turnhout: Brepols, 2012), 67–68).
26 respects taught through the diverse speculations of theology. And perhaps this is what
was said by the psalmist concerning the blessed man, “And he will be like a tree planted
beside the flowing of waters” [Psalm 1:3]; that is, he will be like Christ, into whose
figurative signification all the natural arts flow, within the boundaries of which all divine
Scripture is contained. Indeed, there is no Holy Scripture that exists independent of the
principles of the liberal disciplines.54
From the preceding quotation it is evident that, for Eriugena, the projects of intellectual
inquiry summarily presented in the liberal arts also served a redemptive purpose in the soul’s
pursuit for God.55 Elsewhere Eriugena went so far as to assert, “No one enters heaven unless
through philosophy.”56 In fact, Eriugena was not the first to affirm spiritual progress though
study of the liberal arts within a broader intellectual context prizing philosophical study, which
contained its own divisions.
MacInnis, trans., Eriugena, Expositiones in Ierarchiam Coelestem, ed. J. Barbet, in
Corpvs Christianorvm Continuatio Mediaevalis (Turnhout: Brepols, 1975), vol. 31, 16
(PL122:139C–140A). The mention of theology in this passage may be confusing if it is not
remembered that Eriugena equated the study of philosophy and religion: “Conficitur inde ueram
esse philosophiam ueram religionem conuersimque ueram religionem esse ueram philosophiam.”
(Indeed, true philosophy is just like true religion and, conversely, true religion is just like true
philosophy.) (G. Madec, ed., Iohannis Scotti De divina praedestinatione liber, in Corpvs
Christianorvm Continuatio Mediaevalis (Turnholt: Brepols, 1978), vol. 50, 5.)
John Contreni, “John Scottus, Martin Hiberniensis, the Liberal Arts, and Teaching,” in
Carolingian Learning: Masters and Manuscripts (Brookfield: Ashgate Publishing, 1992), 4–5.
Annotationes in Marcianum, ed. Cora Lutz, Mediaeval Academy of America 34 (1939),
64: “Nemo intrat in celum nisi per philosophiam.”
27 Neoplatonism as Philosophical Context for the Liberal Arts
In the Ancient Academy, philosophy was broadly divided into ethics (or the practical
sciences), physics (study of the sensible world), and dialectics (study of the Forms).57 In fact, the
works of Platonic philosophers, beginning with those of Plato himself, were divided into
corresponding categories, e.g., Timaeus was considered representative of Plato’s physics.58
Similarly, the Enneads of Plotinus (204/5-270 CE) were organized by Porphyry (ca. 234-305
CE) into a comparable three-part division and reflected an important idea: philosophy’s three
parts comprise a pedagogical program of intellectual and spiritual progression.59 That is, ethics
constitutes spiritual purification by mastery of the passions, physics corresponds to a practiced
detachment of the soul from the sensible world through contemplation of incorporeal realities,
and epoptics (or metaphysics, or theology) parallels the soul’s contemplation of the highest
principle of all things.60
The roles of the liberal arts within formal philosophical study varied greatly in the
Platonic tradition, and this topic is related to the broader issue of how philosophy was viewed in
Pierre Hadot, “Les divisions des parties de la philosophie dans l’Antiquite,” Museum
Helveticum 36 (1979): 206.
Pierre Hadot, “Les divisions,” 219.
Pierre Hadot explained that a pedagogical order in the parts of philosophy is first
observed in Stoic philosophers and that this order reflects a spiritual progression, beginning with
concern for the material matters of daily life and culminating in a higher wisdom (Pierre Hadot,
“Les divisions,” 215-16). Cf., Pierre Hadot, Philosophy as a Way of Life, trans. Arnold Davidson
(Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 1995), 126.
Pierre Hadot, Philosophy as a Way of Life, 137. Cf. Pierre Hadot, What is Ancient
Philosophy?, trans. Michael Chase (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 2002), 153-55. Pierre
Hadot identifies Plutarch’s De Iside et Osiride, as the first identification of epoptics as the
culmination of philosophic study in “Les divisions,” 218.
28 relation to theology. For example, the Hellenistic Jewish philosopher Philo of Alexandria (ca. 20
BCE – 50 CE) devised an educational curriculum in which liberal arts such as grammar, rhetoric,
geometry, and music were studied as propaedeutic for Greek philosophy (understood generally
as the study of philosophic discourse), which was viewed as superior, and, in turn, surpassed by
the Wisdom of God.61 Christian leaders, such as Clement of Alexandria (ca. 150 – 215 CE) and
Origen (ca. 185 – 283 CE), utilized a similar schema, though they substituted a Christian
philosophy for Philo’s Mosaic orientation.62 In explaining this hierarchy of studies (liberal arts,
Greek philosophic discourse, and theology) in Christian Neoplatonism, Pierre Hadot writes,
“From this point of view, therefore, philosophy was the servant of theology from Christian
antiquity onward. It contributed its own knowhow, but was forced to adapt itself to the demands
of its mistress.”63
Ilsetraut Hadot, in her comprehensive work Arts Libéraux et Philosophie dans la Pensée
Antique, argued convincingly that the now famous list of seven liberal arts was assembled in the
specific philosophical context of Neoplatonism, though the nature of the curriculum within each
discipline was not always distinctly Neoplatonic.64 For example, Martianus Capella’s De Nuptiis
presented the seven liberal arts along with many Neoplatonic elements, but, in composing his
summary of each discipline, Capella drew on sources that did not necessarily share Neoplatonic
understandings. It is actually in Augustine’s De musica that one finds the development of a
curriculum in accordance with distinctly Neoplatonic thinking—in which study of the physical
Pierre Hadot, What is Ancient Philosophy?, 255.
Pierre Hadot, What is Ancient Philosophy?, 256.
Pierre Hadot, What is Ancient Philosophy?, 256.
Ilsetraut Hadot, Arts Libéraux et Philosophie dans la Pensée Antique (Paris: Études
Augustiniennes, 1984), 154.
29 world provides insight into the intelligible forms, and this process is considered of spiritual
Following Augustine, and, therefore, clearly participating in this Neoplatonic tradition,
Eriugena also urged consideration of the physical world for insight into the spiritual world.66 For
example, in the following quotations from 1) Eriugena’s Periphyseon III (§723B-C) and 2) that
portion of Augustine’s Retractationes where he reconsiders his treatise De musica, both men
pointed to Romans 1:20 as biblical warrant for seeking the intelligibles through study of the
1) diuina tamen auctoritas rationes rerum uisibilium et inuisibilium non solum non
prohibet, uerum etiam hortatur inuestigari. “Inuisibilia enim eius,” ait Apostolus, “a
creatura mundi per ea quae facta sunt intellecta conspiciuntur.” Non paruus itaque gradus
est, sed magnus et ualde utilis sensibilium rerum notitia ad intelligibilium intelligentiam.
Vt enim per sensum peruenitur ad intellectum, ita per creaturam reditur ad deum.
Ilsetraut Hadot, Ars Libéraux, 154-55. “[De musica], qui compte six livres, est un
exemple achevé de la mise en pratique de la théorie philosophique qu’Augustin avait développée
dans le livre II du traité Sur l’ordre: il souligne partout le rapport de la musique avec les nombres
corporels et incorporels, caractérise l’écoulement de la phrase rythmée et mélodique comme un
motus rationabilis, donc comme un mouvement ordonné a l’aide des nombres et finalement de la
raison, et le dernier livre est destiné exclusivement à faire valoir le fondement intelligible de la
Herbet Schueller, in The Idea of Music, explains that Eriugena would also have read in
Pseudo-Dionysius’s Celestial Hierarchy (e.g., in Books I and II) this principle of seeking insight
into God’s higher, invisible reality from truths learned in the physical world (292-93).
30 The Divine Authority does not prohibit investigating the reasons of visible and invisible
things, but actually encourages it. For, the Apostle says, “from the creation of the world
His invisible things are seen, being understood from the things that have been made.”
Therefore, it is no small step but a large and greatly profitable one from the notice of
sensible things to the understanding of intelligible things. For, as through sense we arrive
at understanding, so through creation we return to God.67
2) Deinde, ut supra commemoravi, sex libros de Musica scripsi; quorum ipse sextus
maxime innotuit, quoniam res in eo digna cognitione versatur, quomodo a corporalibus et
spiritualibus, sed mutabilibus numeris, perveniatur ad immutabiles numeros, qui jam sunt
in ipsa immutabili veritate, et sic invisibilia Dei, per ea quae facta sunt, intellecta
Next, as I mentioned above, I wrote six books On Music. The sixth of these was
especially well known, because in it a matter worthy of investigation was taken up—how
from corporeal and spiritual but changeable rhythms [numeris], one comes to the
knowledge of unchangeable rhythms [numeros] which are already in immutable truth,
and, in this way, the invisible things of God, being understood through the things that are
made, are clearly seen.68
MacInnis, trans., Periphyseon III, CCCM 163, 148-49 (PL122:723B-C).
MacInnis, trans., Retractationes, PL32:600-601.
31 One may note that, in these quotations, it is music as member of the quadrivium, i.e., one
of the mathematical sciences, that clearly furnishes insight into the metaphysical realm. In this
way, there is a connection of the liberal arts to the Neoplatonic divisions of philosophy; those
arts of the quadrivium correspond to the second division of physics, for they train the soul to
seek a higher reality from that one presented by the physical world. An earlier, non-Christian
example of this principle is observed in how Plotinus stressed throughout his Enneads that the
soul’s ascent to the One must be by reason (since it is an image of the Divine Intellect) and via
those arts, like music, which train the mind to discern the intelligibles through sensibles, e.g.,
We will begin by describing the nature of the musician. We must consider him as easily
moved and excited by beauty, but not quite capable of being moved by absolute beauty;
he is however quick to respond to its images when he comes upon them, and, just as
nervous people react readily to noises, so does he to articulate sounds and the beauty in
them; and he always avoids what is inharmonious and not a unity in songs and verses and
seeks eagerly after what is rhythmical and shapely. So, in leading him on, these sounds
and rhythms and forms perceived by the senses must be made the starting-point. He must
be led and taught to make abstraction of the material element in them and come to the
principles from which their proportions and ordering forces derive and to the beauty
which is in these principles, and learn that this was what excited him, the intelligible
harmony and the beauty in it, and beauty universal, not just some particular beauty, and
32 he must have the doctrines of philosophy implanted in him; by these he must be brought
to firm confidence in what he possesses without knowing it.69
In conclusion, it is in the Neoplatonic tradition, which prized the spiritual benefits of
study, that Eriugena participated as a scholar of the liberal arts. That is, for Eriugena, through
study of the liberal arts, one gains insight into the created order, but, more importantly, one’s
soul is strengthened and able to perceive the more ultimate spiritual reality of the cosmos. Such
determination to glimpse God intellectually in everything, here and now, actually constituted the
most important spiritual benefit for Eriugena, for, in his understanding of the final union of all
things with God, some souls are forever lost in willful fantasies, forever blind to the beatific
vision. The nuances of Eriugena’s intellectual accomplishments are addressed more fully in the
following, but, for now, one may well ask to know more about the background of this brilliant
Plotinus, Enneads I, trans. A. H. Armstrong (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University
Press, 1966), 155.
33 CHAPTER 2
THE WORKS OF JOHN SCOTTUS ERIUGENA
John Scottus Eriugena
Although his name is rendered variously, “John Scottus Eriugena” is the spelling used in
most modern works about Eriugena.70 Eriugena originated from Ireland and came to work in the
court of Charles II (“the Bald”) sometime before 851 CE, possibly as early as 840 CE.71 Around
851 CE, Bishop Pardulus of Laon mentioned Eriugena in a letter (Scotum qui est in palatio regis,
Joannem nomine)72 and that he was requested to contribute to the predestination debate stirred up
by the Saxon monk Gottschalk.73 This letter by Pardulus is the first recorded mention of
Eriugena, and Eriugena’s resulting treatise, De divina predestinatione, is his earliest known work.
Much can be learned about Eriugena, his thinking, and his interaction with Carolingian
intellectual life from his role in the predestination controversy. For example, De divina
predestinatione presents carefully formulated arguments using dialectical reasoning about the
nature of God and the problem of evil.74 Generally speaking, Eriugena was confident in his
scholarly abilities, facility with the liberal arts, and knowledge of theology; at times his Latin
The name “Eriugena” (“Irish-born”) was invented by John Scottus himself, and he used
it to sign his translation of Pseudo-Dionysius’s works (860–62 CE) (Dermot Moran, The
Philosophy of John Scottus Eriugena: A Study of Idealism in the Middle Ages (New York:
Cambridge University Press, 1989), 49). Although it has become conventional practice, adding
the name Eriugena to Scottus is somewhat redundant, since both names refer to John’s Celtic
Moran, The Philosophy of John Scottus, 27.
Epistola ad ecclesiam Lugdunensem, in De tribus epistolis, PL121:1052a.
Moran, The Philosophy of John Scottus, 27.
Moran, The Philosophy of John Scottus, 32.
34 style borders on the flamboyant.75 He quotes Augustine extensively, since the controversy arose
over questions of how Augustine’s doctrine of election was to be properly understood.
To Eriugena’s thinking, earthly life is an opportunity for perfection and salvation.76 This
opportunity, this freedom comes at a cost, though; for Eriugena, humans bear responsibility to
respond to God’s grace and reject evil in this life or suffer eternal punishment in a hell of their
own making. Although his arguments center on correctly expounding Augustine’s writings,
Eriugena also references Greek theologians such as Gregory of Nyssa, which exhibits his
conversance with Greek writings at this time.77
The response to De divina predestinatione was not positive. Eriugena was lambasted by
Hincmar, Florus, and Prudentius; for example, Prudentius called Eriugena a vaniloquus et
garrulous homo, repudiated their friendship, questioned his scholarly abilities, and derided his
lack of rank within the Church.78 In fact, the 850s CE were a hard decade for Eriugena; besides
these slanders, published and read by his peers, Eriugena was officially condemned at the council
of Valence in 855 CE and again in 859 CE at Langres. His views were attacked severely,
probably due to their intellectual sophistication, which outstripped contributions published by his
contemporaries.79 All in all, we learn from the controversy that Eriugena was a scholar known
throughout the ninth century, who possessed a commanding knowledge of theology and the
Moran, The Philosophy of John Scottus, 30.
Moran, The Philosophy of John Scottus, 32.
Moran, The Philosophy of John Scottus, 33.
Moran, The Philosophy of John Scottus, 33.
J. Devisse, Hincmar: Archevêque de Reims 845-882, Vol. 1 (Geneva: Droz, 1975),
35 liberal arts, a refined Latin style, and an independent spirit willing to debate. Even today, he is
remembered as one of the most important Latin philosophers between Boethius and Anselm.80
It remains uncertain where Eriugena spent his time while employed by Charles II, who
supported a palace school in the Laon region, perhaps at Quierzy, Laon itself, or Compiègne.81
Also, there is no certain knowledge of his exact position; perhaps he was a cleric or monk.
Biographical interest in Eriugena began in the twelfth century in the writings of William of
Malmesbury (e.g., De gestis regum anglorum and De gestis pontificum anglorum). William
believed that Eriugena did serve at the Carolingian court but, in the end, returned to England and
settled at Malmesbury.82 Eriugena’s supposed amiable relationship with Charles II is relayed by
William by way of a famous joke; the king is said to have asked while dining, “Quid distat inter
sottum et Scottum?” (What separates a drunkard from an Irishman?). Eriugena nimbly replied,
“Tabula tantum” (Only a table).83 We also learn from William the legend of Eriugena’s
martyrdom; his students are said to have stabbed him to death with their pens.
Eriugena’s ability as a scholar, the opinion of his pupils notwithstanding, is attested by
his vast and varied output. His comments on Martianus Capella’s De Nuptiis are certainly
extensive and display specific and speculative knowledge of the liberal arts. As mentioned
previously, Eriugena translated and commented on Greek works by Gregory of Nyssa, Maximus
Dermot Moran, “John Scottus Eriugena,” The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
(Fall 2008 Edition), ed. Edward Zalta, <http://plato.stanford.edu> (accessed May 31, 2012).
John O’Meara, Eriugena (Oxford, UK: Clarendon, 1988), 14. Moran states that early
on Charles II’s court was peripatetic, so it is probable that scholars traveled with him as part of
his retinue (Moran, The Philosophy of John Scottus, 18–19).
Moran, The Philosophy of John Scottus, 37.
De Gestis Pontificum Anglorum Libri Quinque, ed. N. E. S. A. Hamilton (New York:
Cambridge University Press, 2012), 392.
36 the Confessor, and Pseudo-Dionysius, and composed poetry. He also wrote a famous
commentary on the Gospel of John (Commentarius in Evangelium Iohannis) and corresponded
with other intellectuals of his day. In many of these writings, not to mention the massive
Periphyseon, his greatest achievement, Eriugena employed and privileged his knowledge of the
discipline of music.
Annotationes in Marcianum
The ars musica was known to Carolingian scholars primarily through two sources
inherited from Late Antiquity, Capella’s De nuptiis (DN) and Boethius’s De institutione musica
(DIM). DIM is dedicated solely to musica, and its importance is observed in a lengthy gloss
tradition beginning in the ninth century. In contrast, DN encompasses all the liberal arts, and
each art influences and informs the others to varying degrees. In the case of the ars musica,
musical references appear throughout the first two books of DN, and Harmonia makes her
presentation to the wedding party last of all the maidens who symbolize the liberal arts. Indeed,
after her discourse in Book IX, it is Harmonia who then leads the bride and groom to their
nuptial chamber at the story’s end.84 The overall importance of Harmonia is confirmed by
Capella at the beginning of Book IX, when Apollo declares of her, “It would be a grave offense
to exclude from this company the one bridesmaid who is the particular darling of the heavens,
whose performance is sought with joy and acclamation.”85
Mariken Teeuwen, Harmony and the Music of the Spheres: The Ars Musica in NinthCentury Commentaries on Martianus Capella (Boston: Brill, 2002), 15.
William Stahl, Martianus Capella and the Seven Liberal Arts, Vol. 2 (New York:
Columbia University Press, 1977), 346. I should point out that, in contrast to my assertion,
Ilsetraut Hadot, in Arts Libéraux et Philosophie dans la Pensée Antique (Paris: Études
Augustiniennes, 1984), did not read Harmony’s placement at the end of DN as emphasis: “A
37 Calvin Bower characterizes these works by Boethius and Capella as representing
contrasting intellectual contexts and two different orientations to musica; DIM demonstrates
“quadrivial reasoning,” while DN represents “allegorical revelation.”86 For Boethius, the process
of reasoning in each quadrivial discipline was meticulous and oriented the human mind upward
toward incorporeal essence.87 This upward orientation resulted in “higher knowledge,” spiritual
insight into the Divine.88 In Capella’s marriage of Philology and Mercury, a wedding of human
and divine intellects, knowledge and insight are again central, but they are gained not primarily
through abstract reasoning but progressively and symbolically.89 Both DN and DIM are united in
one important respect: their standing among the Carolingians represents a shift from how musica
was treated primarily in terms of language in Late Antiquity (e.g., Augustine’s De musica) to
terms and forms principally mathematical by the ninth century.
partir du livre III commence la présentation des sept sciences cycliques, à raison d’une science
par livre, dans l'ordre suivant: grammaire, dialectique, rhétorique, géométrie, arithmétique,
astronomie, harmonie (= musique). L’ordre des sciences mathématiques doit probablement son
caractère inhabituel à des raisons purement artistiques: le récit des sept sciences sera suivi par les
noces de Mercure et de Philologie, et il était donc convenable de finir par la discipline qui puisse
habilement faire la transition avec les chants de l’hyménée. La dernière place, qui est assignée à
la musique, s’explique, je crois, par cette considération” (149).
Bower, “Quadrivial Reasoning,” 57.
Bower, “Quadrivial Reasoning,” 59.
Bower, “Quadrivial Reasoning,” 60.
Calvin Bower, Keynote Address: “Musica as Metadiscipline” at “Music in the
Carolingian World: Witnesses to a Metadiscipline (A Conference in Honor of Charles M.
Atkinson),” 28-29 October 2011, Ohio State University. Bower asserted that, considering the
glosses on DN and DIM, more attention is paid to issues of actual singing by early commentators
on DN than by those who discuss DIM.
38 Eriugena’s lengthy glosses on the musical portions of DN stand out as some of the most
speculative and philosophically oriented of his generation.90 In these Annotationes in Marcianum,
Eriugena wrote fluently concerning music theory and its connections to cosmology, drawing
upon Calcidius and Macrobius.91 Eriugena’s Annotationes in Marcianum are preserved in several
manuscripts, notably, Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Latin 12960 and Oxford, Bodleian
Library, Auct. T.2.19. Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Latin 12960 was created in the
monastery of St. Pierre in Corbie in the late ninth century, and it was edited and printed in 1939
by Cora Lutz.92 Oxford, Bodleian Library, Auct. T.2.19, dating from the late ninth or early tenth
centuries, is probably from St. Vincent in Metz. Jeauneau published an edition of Eriugena’s
glosses on DN Book I in the Oxford manuscript in 1978.93 Some scholars assert that the Paris
and Oxford manuscripts come from different periods in Eriugena’s career, an original draft and
then a revision of his comments upon DN, and others, such as Jeauneau himself, consider them
both to be derived from an earlier, more complete source.94
Three other manuscripts feature Remigius’s comments on the first five books of DN and
Eriugena’s comments on the last four quadrivial books: Bern, Burgerbibliothek, 331; Paris,
Teeuwen, Harmony and the Music of the Spheres, 47–48.
Teeuwen, Harmony and the Music of the Spheres, 152–53.
Regarding Lutz’s edition, Teeuwen writes, “The edition contains erroneous readings
and should be used with caution” (Harmony and the Music of the Spheres, 42n.136).
Eduard Jeauneau, “Le commentaire érigénien sur Martianus Capella (De nuptiis, Lib.I)
d'après le manuscrit d’Oxford (Bodl.Libr. Auct.T.2.19, fol. 1-31),” in Quatre thèmes érigéniens,
Montreal, Paris 1978, 91–166.
Cf., Teeuwen, Harmony and the Music of the Spheres, 45–46 for a summary of the
39 Bibliothèque nationale de France, Latin 8675; and Vienna, Nationalbibliothek, 3222.95 Aside
from one portion of the Oxford manuscript translated separately by Jocelyn Godwin and Mariken
Teeuwen, there is no English translation of Eriugena’s glosses on DN.96
Eriugena’s Periphyseon (Lat. De divisione naturae, “On the Division of Nature”) remains
the outstanding philosophical achievement of the ninth century for its breadth and intellectual
innovation.97 Written as a dialogue between a learned teacher (Nutritor) and his able pupil
(Alumnus) and spanning five books, Periphyseon presents a four-part outline of the entire
cosmological order (Natura) as it proceeds from and returns to God: nature which creates and is
not created (i.e., God), nature which creates and is created (i.e., the Primordial Causes), nature
which is created and does not create (i.e., the Created Temporal Effects), and nature which is
neither created nor creates (i.e., Non-Being). Most basically, Eriugena’s goal in Periphyseon was
to construct a thoroughly reasoned, Christian explanation of the universe, drawing upon both
Greek and Latin authorities.98
Teeuwen, Harmony and the Music of the Spheres, 42–43.
Joscelyn Godwin, Harmonies of Heaven and Earth (Rochester: Inner Traditions, 1987),
104–8 and Teeuween, Harmony and the Music of the Spheres, 219–26.
Cf., Dermot Moran’s description of Periphyseon in his article on Eriugena in the
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Similarly, in the preface to his translation of Periphyseon
Book I, I. P. Sheldon-Williams writes, “Periphyseon, running to more than half a million words,
is the most impressive piece of philosophical writing between the ages of St. Augustine and St.
Thomas” (Scriptores Latini Hibernaie, vol. 7 (Dublin: Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies,
Myra Uhlfelder, trans., Periphyseon (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1976), xxii.
40 Although studied extensively in the twelfth century, Periphyseon was condemned by
Pope Honorius III in 1225. Apparently there was some connection between the works of
Eriugena and two Aristotelian scholars teaching in Paris early in the thirteenth century, Amaury
of Bène and David of Dinant. As the result of several councils, culminating in a papal bull,
Amaury and David were condemned—along with the works of Aristotle and, by association,
Eriugena. In Pope Honorius III’s letter of 1225 to the bishops of France, he condemned
Periphyseon as “teeming with the worms of heretical perversity.”99 Despite this condemnation,
interest in Periphyseon persisted throughout the Middle Ages and was revived after Thomas
Gale’s printed edition of 1687.
The earliest surviving manuscript of Periphyseon is Rheims, Bibliothèque Municipale,
875, which was itself a copy of an earlier manuscript and the parent of all subsequent copies.100
In the margins of Rheims, Bibliothèque Municipale, 875, there are some textual additions that
were included in later copies, e.g., the recension Bamberg Ph. 2/I. According to I. P. SheldonWilliams, the Rheims and Bamberg manuscripts could have been copied during Eriugena’s
lifetime.101 Another recension incorporating notes made in the margins of Bamberg Ph. 2/1 is
Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Latin 12964.
A critical edition and English translation of Periphyseon Books 1–4 was published in
Scriptores Latini Hiberniae (SLH) volumes 7, 9, 11, and 13 by Sheldon-Williams with help from
Ludwig Bieler, John O’Meara, and Édouard Jeauneau. Sheldon-Williams’s critical edition and
translation of the final book, Book 5, remained unpublished at his death, in 1973; the translation
was revised by John O’Meara and published as part of the Cahiers d’études médiévales (Cahier
Cf., Moran, The Philosophy of John Scottus, 86.
Sheldon-Williams, Periphyseon I, 24.
Sheldon-Williams, Periphyseon I, 7.
41 spécial, 3), in 1987. A definitive critical edition of the Latin text of Periphyseon was edited by
Jeauneau and published in the Corpus Christianorum Continuatio Mediaevalis (CCCM) series,
Previous scholars have studied Periphyseon looking for insights into musical treatises of
the ninth century, but rarely have they sought understanding as to how music as a liberal art was
woven throughout the broader project of learning during the Carolingian renovatio.102 For
example, in the organicum melos debate discussed more fully in Chapter 3, the term organicum
melos was observed in both Periphyseon and the Enchiriadis documents, leading to speculation
of a connection between Eriugena and those treatises.103 In her 1984 dissertation, Nancy Phillips
wondered if “Scot’s terminology … perhaps inspired the terms describing the modes and chant
Musical praxis is referenced throughout Periphyseon—for example, Eriugena mentioned
organs and singers—but, overall, he considered music philosophically as a liberal art. For
example, in the context of Eriugena’s definition of musica found in Periphyseon Book I,
mentioned above, he expounded Aristotle’s ten categories and how the arts are eternal within the
I should mention the following exceptions: Christine Coallier, “Le vocabulaire des
arts libéraux dans le Periphyseon,” in Jean Scot Ecrivain, ed. G.-H. Allard (Montréal, Bellarmin,
1986); John Contreni, “John Scottus, Martin Hiberniensis, the Liberal Arts, and Teaching,” in
Carolingian Learning: Masters and Manuscripts (Brookfield: Ashgate Publishing, 1992);
Barbara Münxelhaus, “Aspekte der Musica Disciplina bei Eriugena,” in Jean Scot Érigène et
l’histoire de la philosophie (Paris: Éditions du Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique,
Erickson, “Boethius,” 57ff.
Quoted in Erickson, “Boethius,” 58. Phillips’s dissertation is titled “Musica and
Scolica Enchiriadis: The Literary, Theoretical, and Musical Sources” (PhD diss., New York
42 human soul. In Book V, §869B-C, he explained that the progression of all things from unity to
diversity and back to unity is pictured in music theory, because simple and compound harmonies
begin with a single pitch. More significantly, a large portion of Book III is dedicated to the
creatio ex nihilo of the cosmos and the motions of the planets and firmament, and here, as in his
commentary on DN, Eriugena explains the idea of the music of the spheres, the revolutions of the
planets and their supposed connection to musical concepts. For Augustine and Boethius,
discussions of the cosmos necessitated engagement with Genesis 1-3 and the creation narratives
found there. So too for Eriugena; his questions were asked in terms of the divine origins and
destiny of humans and incorporated his understanding of music as liberal art.
In another section of Periphyseon, Eriugena used the concept harmonia to describe the
eternal state and the problem of evil. He drew analogies between the pleasing music that arises
from different voices blending in song, and the rewards of the just and the punishment of evil—
both produce a harmony of disparate, and, in the case of good and evil, apparently irreconcilable
Expositiones in Hierarchiam Caelestem
Generally speaking, Eriugena moves beyond a one-dimensional, encyclopedic
presentation of musica as liberal art (as it is in Cassiodorus and Isidore of Seville) to a more
detailed synthesis consistent with the intellectual aims of the Carolingian renovatio under
Charles II. An important aspect of Eriugena’s work is that this synthesis also involved influences
of Greek learning, increasingly imported to Frankish lands from Byzantium. For example, before
beginning Periphyseon, Eriugena completed a translation of Pseudo-Dionysius’s Celestial
Hierarchy (860–862 CE), drawing upon a literal rendering completed by Hilduin (827–834 CE).
Uhlfelder, Periphyseon, 327.
43 Both Hilduin and Eriugena used a manuscript given to Louis the Pious by Byzantine
Emperor Michael II (“the Stammerer”); the manuscript is now located at the Bibliothèque
nationale de France in Paris (Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Greek 437). In his later
commentary on Pseudo-Dionysius’s Celestial Hierarchy (Expositiones in Hierarchiam
Caelestem), Eriugena advanced ideas previously worked out in Periphyseon, and Moran
questioned if “a full study of the relationship between the Periphyseon and the Expositiones is
called for.”106 In addition to Eriugena’s comments in Expositiones regarding the liberal arts and
the project of philosophy/theology quoted above, the pages of Eriugena’s Expositiones are
replete with talk of the movements of souls and rational minds and the concept of harmonia
applied to the celestial hierarchy of angels. There is currently no complete English translation of
Eriugena’s Expositiones in Hierarchiam Caelestem.107
To summarize the treatise, Pseudo-Dionysius explains all the divisions of angels in order
of emanation from God to man; for him, the progression is as light streaming from its source.
Specifically, there are three hierarchies: 1) Seraphim, Cherubim, and Thrones, 2) Lordships,
Powers, and Authorities, and 3) Principalities, Archangels, and Angels. Through the course of
his treatise, Pseudo-Dionysius also explains the reasons for these names and the striking
appearances that angels take throughout the Bible.
Eriugena’s Expositiones have been transmitted in several incomplete manuscripts dating
from the tenth through the fourteenth centuries; e.g., manuscripts exist with fragments of the text
Moran, The Philosophy of John Scottus, 50n.6.
Eriugena’s Latin translation and commentary are published in a critical edition edited
by J. Barbet, Johannis Scoti Erivgenae Expositiones in Ierarchiam Coelestem, CCCM, vol. 31
(Turnhout: Brepols, 1975).
44 copied at the University of Paris during the thirteenth century.108 Only one complete copy of the
text exists, Douai, Bibliothèque municipale, 202, discovered, in 1950, by H. Dondaine.109 The
Douai manuscript (mid-twelfth century) contains about a quarter of the entire work unavailable
elsewhere, most of Chapters 3–7.110
Expositiones, CCCM 31, xii.
Paul Rorem, Eriugena’s Commentary on the Dionysian Celestial Hierarchy (Toronto,
Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 2005), x.
Expositiones, CCCM 31, xii.
45 CHAPTER 3
ERIUGENA’S ANNOTATIONES IN MARCIANUM
For the purposes of this dissertation, I have prepared an English translation of Eriugena’s
glosses over sections 1–30 in De Nuptiis (DN) Book I, using Oxford, Bodleian Library,
Auct.T.2.19; my translation is placed at the end of this chapter (cf., page 80).111 Eriugena’s
excursus/treatise on the harmony of the spheres, titled De Armonia Caelestium Motuum
Siderumque Sonis, is found in this portion of his glosses (cf., page 115), and his explanations
there are vital to my discussion below. Interestingly, Eriugena’s De Armonia is not present in the
Paris manuscript described in Chapter 2 (Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Latin 12964),
nor is this material addressed so extensively by Eriugena in his glosses over other sections of DN
such as Books II and IX.
In his glosses, Eriugena meets our expectations for Carolingian commentary; i.e., he
includes alternate readings, etymologies, and textual criticism, but his primary concern is the
philosophical or metaphysical substance of Capella’s text.112 For example, Eriugena emphasizes
Platonic questions about the soul and its integration with the moving celestial spheres, and, in
these philosophical queries, he quotes at length from Calcidius and Macrobius. Teeuwen notes
Two partial English translations of Eriugena’s excursus on the harmony of the spheres,
inserted between his glosses over §15 and §16 in De Nuptiis Book I, are published separately by
Godwin and Teeuwen. Both translations end before a fascinating study on how the soul’s
celestial journey maps onto those same moving spheres. Cf., Godwin, Harmonies of Heaven and
Earth, 104–8 and Teeuwen, Harmony and the Music of the Spheres, 219–26.
Teeuwen, Harmony and the Music of the Spheres, 47.
46 that this “speculative, philosophical accent” to Eriugena’s comments on Capella was detected in
the ninth century, but that it was not appreciated or emulated until the twelfth century.113
The Harmony of All Things
Capella opens DN Book I with an evocation of Hymen, a god of love and presider over
Tu quem psallentem thalamis, quem matre Camena
progenitum perhibent, copula sacra deum,
semina qui arcanis stringens pugnantia vinclis
complexuque sacro dissona nexa foves,
namque elementa ligas vicibus mundumque maritas
atque auram mentis corporibus socias,
foedere complacito sub quo natura iugatur,
sexus concilians et sub amore fidem114
Sacred principle of unity among the gods, on you I call; you are said to grace weddings
with your song; it is said that a Muse was your mother. You bind the warring seeds of the
world with secret bonds and encourage the union of opposites by your sacred embrace.
You cause the elements to interact reciprocally, you make the world fertile; through you,
Teeuwen, Harmony and the Music of the Spheres, 47. For example, consider
Prudentius’s criticism for Eriugena’s use of Capella, quoted above.
James Willis, Martianus Capella (Leipzig: Teubner, 1983), 1.
47 Mind is breathed into bodies by a union of concord which rules over Nature, as you bring
harmony between the sexes and foster loyalty by love.115
Here, Capella addresses a hymn to Hymen and mentions the role of music performed for
and by him at weddings, how he fosters harmony and love between contrasting elements,
anthropomorphized as male and female, and that he is the son of the Muse Calliope. His
supposed connection to the Muses is important to Eriugena, who notes, “just as the harmony of
all things is signified through the Muses, thus, through Hymen, [is signified] the general love of
all things that joins all things.”116 In describing Hymen as unifying “discordant elements,”
Capella and Eriugena, who echoes him, are drawing upon a long tradition in Platonic philosophy;
for example, in Timaeus 32C, Plato describes the cosmos as composed of four elements (earth,
air, fire, water), from which all things are made through a process of proportional ordering.
Following Plato, Capella and other Neoplatonists identified these processes of proportional
ordering with musical terminology, in this case, armonia.
Eriugena’s comment that “the harmony of all things is signified through the Muses” (per
Musas armonia omnium rerum significatur) should be noted carefully. The Muses are important
characters in the DN story and especially in Book I. For example, the Muses attend Mercury in
Apollo’s Grove (§11) and ascend with the gods as they venture seeking Jupiter’s approval for a
marriage (§27). Additionally, in this grand ascent to the celestial court, each Muse stops at the
planetary orbit with which she is associated and attuned, e.g., Melpomene, Muse of Tragedy,
with the Sun’s orbit, and Calliope, Muse of Epic Poetry, with Mercury’s. Thalia, Muse of
Stahl, trans., Martianus Capella, 3.
Unless otherwise stated, Eriugena’s glosses are excerpted here from my translation,
placed at the end of this chapter.
48 Comedy, is left on Earth, perhaps as a comment on the superiority of the other literary domains
superi autem globi orbesque septemplices suavis cuiusdam melodiae harmonicis
tinnitibus concinebant ac sono ultra solitum dulciore, quippe Musas adventare
praesenserant; quae quidem singillatim circulis quibusque metatis, ubi suae pulsum
modulationis agnoverant, constiterunt. nam Vranie stellantis mundi sphaeram extimam
continatur, quae acuto raptabatur sonora tinnitu, Polymnia Saturnium circulum tenuit,
Euterpe Iovialem, Erato ingressa Martium modulatur, Melpomene medium, ubi Sol
flammanti mundum lumine convenustat, Terpsichore Venerio sociatur auro, Calliope
orbem complexa Cyllenium, Clio citimum circulum, hoc est in Luna collocavit hospitium,
quae quidem graves pulsus modis raucioribus personabat. sola vero, quod vector eius
cycnus impatiens oneris atque etiam subvolandi alumna stagna petierat, Thalia derelicta
in ipso florentis campi ubere residebat.117
The upper spheres and the seven planetary spheres produced a symphony of the
harmonious notes of each, a sweeter song than usually heard; indeed, they had sensed the
approach of the Muses, each of whom, after traversing the spheres, took her position
where she recognized the pitch that was familiar to her. For Urania was attuned to the
outermost sphere of the starry universe, which was swept along with a high pitch.
Polymnia took over the sphere of Saturn; Euterpe controlled that of Jove; and Erato that
of Mars, where she entered; while Melpomene held the middle region, where the Sun
Willis, Martianus Capella, 12-13.
49 enhanced the world with the light of flame. Terpsichore joined the golden Venus;
Calliope embraced the Cyllenian’s sphere; Clio set up as her lodging the innermost
circle—that is, the moon’s, whose deep pitch reverberated with deeper tones. Only Thalia
was left sitting on earth’s flowery bosom, because the swan which was to carry her was
indisposed to carry its burden or even to fly upward and had gone to find the lakes which
were its home.118
This picture of musical attunement and general coherence in the cosmos was a
commonplace of Platonic thinking. Stated simply, basic patterns of the universe replicate
themselves everywhere, physically, spiritually, and in all orders of magnitude, with music being
the best analogy (cf., Periphyseon V, §966A), e.g., in the harmony of the spheres. While other
musicological studies of Eriugena’s writings have dealt almost exclusively with his description
of the harmony of the spheres, e.g., in his Annotationes and in Periphyseon,119 this project
explores a fundamental element in Platonic thought neglected in previous discussions, i.e., music
related to the spheres and the human soul. Eriugena’s writings provide a perfect opportunity for
such a study.
First, it should be noted that whereas Plotinus, like other students of Plato, studied the
human soul in terms of the cosmos, Eriugena considered the cosmos in terms of the soul. For
example, consider the following quotations from 1) Plotinus’s Enneads IV and 2) Eriugena’s
Periphyseon II. For Plotinus, human souls and bodies, like everything else in our earthly
Stahl, trans., Martianus Capella, 16.
E.g., Barbara Münxelhaus, “Aspekte der Musica Disciplina bei Eriugena,” in Jean
Scot Érigène et l’histoire de la philosophie (Paris: Éditions du Centre National de la Recherche
Scientifique, 1977), 253–62.
50 experience, are derivative, lesser parts of a larger whole that manifest its order and movements.
In contrast, for Eriugena, the cosmos is inherent within the human soul.
1) We must admit, then, that each particular thing has an unreasoned power, since it is
moulded and shaped in the All and in some way has a share of soul from the Whole
which is ensouled, and is surrounded by a universe of this kind and is part of an ensouled
being—for there is nothing in it which is not a part—but some things are more
powerfully effective than others, both among the things on earth and still more among
those in the heavens, since these have a clearer nature.120
2) Non enim ulla creatura est quae in homine intelligi non possit, unde etiam in sanctis
scripturis omnis creatura nominari solet. In euangelio siquidem scriptum est: “Praedicate
euangelium omni creaturae.” Item in Apostolo: “Omnis creatura congemiscit et dolet
usque adhuc.” Et si non peccaret, non esset in eo diuisio sexuum sed solummodo homo
esset; non separaretur in eo orbis terrarum a paradiso sed omnis terrena natura in eo esset
paradisus, hoc est spiritualis conuersatio; caelum et terra in eo non segregarentur, totus
enim caelestis esset et nil terrenum nil graue nil corporeum in eo appareret; esset enim et
multiplicaretur in numerum a conditore sui praefinitum, sicut angeli et sunt et multiplicati
sunt; sensibilis natura ab intelligibili in eo non discreparetur, totus enim esset intellectus
creatori suo semper et immutabiliter adhaerens et nullo modo a primordialibus suis causis
in quibus conditus est recederet; omnisque creatura quae in eo condita est nullam
Plotinus, Enneads IV, trans. A. H. Armstrong (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University
Press, 1984), 255. Consider also Enneads II.9.7 and IV.4.35.
51 diuisionem in eo pateretur. Sed quoniam primus homo in tali felicitate permanere
neglexerat et ab ea superbiendo cecidit et in infinitas partitiones uarietatesque naturae
humanae unitas dispersa est, diuina clementia nouum hominem, in quo ipsa natura quae
in ueteri homine dispertita est ad pristinam unitatem reuocaretur, in mundo nasci
For there is no creature that cannot be understood to be in man, whence in Holy Scripture
he is customarily called “every creature.” Accordingly, in the Gospel, it is written,
“Preach the gospel to every creature” [Mark 16:15], and, in the Apostle, “Every creature
sighs deeply and suffers until now” [Romans 8:22]. And, if he had not sinned, there
would not be in him the division of the sexes, but there would be only man; in him the
earthly globe would not be separated from paradise, but in him the whole of earthly
nature would be paradise—that is to speak spiritually. Heaven and Earth would not be
separated in him, for he would be wholly heavenly, and nothing earthly, nothing heavy,
nothing corporeal would appear in him; for he would be and would multiply to the
number determined by his Creator, as the angels both are and have been multiplied. The
sensible nature in him would not be distinct from the intelligible, for he would be all
intellect, ever and immutably attached to his Creator and would by no means withdraw
from his primordial causes, in which he was made; and no creature which is created in
him would in him suffer any division. But, because the first man had despised to remain
in such felicity and fell from it through pride, and the unity of human nature was
dispersed into infinite divisions and variations, the divine clemency ordained that there
52 should be born a new Man in the world, in whom that nature which in the old man was
divided should be recalled to pristine unity.121
Regardless of the fact that he preferred a different approach to other Neoplatonists, i.e.,
understanding the cosmos in terms of the soul, one can read what Eriugena had to say about
music, the soul, or the general order of the cosmos and learn about the other two: the topics are
mutually referential. This principle of interreferentiality in Eriugena’s writings is thorny, though,
and its consideration is best begun by revisiting the organicum melos question.
The Organicum Melos Question
In his article, “Boethius, Eriugena, and the Neoplatonism of Musica and Scolica
enchiriadis,” Raymond Erickson’s primary aim was to deny any connection between Eriugena
and the Enchiriadis documents.122 To summarize the situation, beginning with Edmond de
Coussemaker in his Mémoire sur Hucbald et sur ses traités de musique, the term organicum
melos was noted in both Periphyseon and Musica enchiriadis and believed to reference
polyphony in both instances.123 This view was promoted by Jacques Handschin, who concluded
that Eriugena therefore knew Musica enchiriadis.124 But later scholars, such as Ernst Waeltner,
found that the term organicum melos also occurs without implying polyphony.125 Following
MacInnis, trans., Periphyseon II, CCCM 162, 17 (PL122:536A–C).
In Musical Humanism and its Legacy: Essays in Honor of Claude V. Palisca, ed.
Nancy Baker and Barbara Hanning (Stuyvesant, NY: Pendragon, 1992), 53–78.
Erickson, “Boethius,” 57.
Jacques Handschin, “Die Musikanschauung des Johannes Scotus (Erigena),” Deutsche
Vierteljahrsschift für Literaturwissenschaft und Geistesgeschichte 5 (1927), 339.
Ernst Waeltner, “Organicum Melos: Zur Musikanschauung des Iohannes Scottus
(Eriugena)” (Munich: Bayerischen Akademie Der Wissenschaften, 1977).
53 Waeltner, Erickson noted that, properly defined, organicus “implies the presence of fixed
mathematical ratios, such as are built into certain instruments (organa); these ratios are the
foundation for both the harmony of the universe (as in Eriugena) and organal practice, based on
the perfect consonances of the fourth and fifth (as in the Enchiriadis treatises).”126
Although discrediting an overt connection between the Enchiriadis documents and
Eriugena, Waeltner and others left open the question of other influences. Nancy Phillips took up
this question and expounded a reading in which Greek writings made available by Eriugena, in
the ninth century, factored largely into the philosophy and even terminology of the Enchiriadis
treatises.127 In contrast to Phillips, Erickson asserted that Boethius is the more likely source of
Neoplatonic ideas in the Enchiriadis documents. For example, although Musica enchiriadis
employs the term resolutio in a sense similar to Eriugena’s usage when referring to the eventual
reunification of all creation with God, Erickson claimed that the term resolutio and
“complementary notions of synthesis and analysis, the analogy between language and music, the
concept of procession and return” can be found in Boethius’s Arithmetic.128
Erickson, “Boethius,” 58. Mariken Teeuwen summarized her own view in the
following: “The passage [in his commentary on Capella’s DN] in which John illustrates the
harmony of the spheres with a choir singing different pitches simultaneously, in choro, ubi multi
simul cantantes, is evidence for the existence of a polyphonic singing practice in the second half
of the ninth century. John knew, from his own experience, of the practice of polyphonic singing.
This does not, however, answer the question of whether, here or in Periphyseon, he refers to the
specific technique of organum. There is, to my mind, no proof of the specific compositional
technique in either of the two passages” (Harmony of the Spheres, 335).
Nancy Phillips, “Musica and Scolica Enchiriadis: The Literary, Theoretical, and
Musical Sources” (PhD diss., New York University, 1984).
Erickson, “Boethius,” 77.
54 Of course, Erickson focused on terminological issues: Do philosophical expressions
appearing in Musica and Scholica enchiriadis come from the writings of Eriugena or Boethius?
Another enquiry, unexamined though worth consideration, is how philosophical terms and
concepts play out in concert with ninth-century understandings of musica. Most scholars,
including Erickson and Phillips, agree that Neoplatonic philosophy is prevalent throughout ninthcentury music treatises, and, if anything, the organicum melos debates have established that a
concept of proportional ordering appears in both musical and philosophical contexts. Moving
forward, by expanding our understanding of the music of the spheres in Eriugena’s writings to
include the human soul, we should highlight such connections between philosophy and music,
and underline the interdisciplinary nature of music in Eriugena’s day.
The Music of the Spheres
Between his comments on §15 and §16 of DN Book I, Eriugena inserted a short treatise
titled “DE ARMONIA CAELESTIUM MOTUUM SIDERUMQUE SONIS” (“Concerning the
Harmony of Heavenly Movements and the Sounds of the Stars”), his contribution to
longstanding Platonic tradition of speculating on the harmony of the spheres. Ancient
philosophers had discerned that certain “wanderers” (i.e., πλανήτης, hence our word, “planet”)
moved in paths and at speeds divergent from the field of stars. Not accounting for the vast
vacuum of space, these early thinkers supposed that the firmament and planets emitted sounds in
their movements, and, since to human perception the Earth stands still, some thought that the
55 Earth was silent. Consequently, theorizing about the movements and music of the heavens
became a preoccupation for scholars and a persistent intellectual pursuit through the centuries.129
Some likened the sounds of heaven to the lyre, itself a divine instrument associated with
Apollo, and proposed tuning the cosmos in terms of an octave with different distances between
specific planetary pitches or in terms of the velocity and size of each planet’s orbit, e.g., Pliny’s
Naturalis historia, II.20:
Sed Pythagoras interdum ex musica ratione appellat tonum quantum absit a terra luna, ab
ea ad Mercurium dimidium eius spatii, et ab eo ad Venerem tantundem, a qua ad solem
sescuplum, a sole ad Martem tonum, id est quantum ad lunam a terra, ab eo ad Iovem
dimidium, et ab eo a Saturnum dimidium, et inde sescuplum ad signiferum; ita septem
tonis effici quam diapason harmoniam vocant, hoc est universitatem concentus; in ea
Saturnum Dorio moveri phthongo, Iovem Phrygio, et in reliquis similia, iucunda magis
quam necessaria subtilitate.
But, occasionally, Pythagoras draws on the theory of music, and he designates the
distance between the Earth and the Moon as a whole tone, that between the Moon and
Mercury a semitone, between Mercury and Venus the same, between her and the Sun a
tone and a half, between the Sun and Mars a tone (the same as the distance between the
Earth and the Moon), between Mars and Jupiter half a tone, between Jupiter and Saturn
half a tone, between Saturn and the zodiac a tone and a half: the seven tones thus
Medieval scholars derived justification to theorize about the measurements of the
cosmos from their beliefs about creation; for example, many quoted Wisdom of Solomon 11:20,
“Thou hast ordered all things in measure and number and weight.”
56 producing the so-called diapason, i.e., a universal harmony. In this, Saturn moves in the
Dorian mode, Jupiter in the Phrygian, and similarly with the other planets—a refinement
more entertaining than convincing.130
Capella himself presented a scalar model of the spheres in DN Book II, but that passage
presents several problems for us today. In Stahl’s translation of Capella §169–§198, Philology
and her entourage rise 126,000 stades, or one tone from Earth to the Moon, from the Moon to
Mercury a half tone, from Mercury to Venus a half tone, from Venus to the Sun one and a half
tones, from the Sun to Mars a half tone, from Mars to Jupiter a half tone, from Jupiter to Saturn a
half tone, from Saturn to the Firmament a tone and a half.131 In contrast to Pliny’s accounting,
which equaled seven tones, Capella declares this total journey to be six tones, or one octave—but
in Stahl’s reading the actual measurement is six and a half tones. In fact, a corruption in the Latin
text obscures the true distance between Mars and Jupiter, which Capella states is the same as
between Jupiter and Saturn.132
In addition to the scalar approach described above, other theorists speculated that the
harmony of the spheres resembled the Perfect System of fixed notes defining tetrachords with
moveable inner notes that specify genus (diatonic, chromatic, or enharmonic). This is the
Pliny, Natural History, Vol. 1, trans. H. Rackham (Cambridge, MA: Harvard
University Press, 1958), 226-29.
Stahl, Martianus Capella, 55–60.
Teeuwen, Harmony and the Music of the Spheres, 197.
57 approach Eriugena employed, i.e., the heavenly music is organized conceptually as the
Immutable System and produces an infinite variety of musical sounds.133
Turning to Eriugena’s approach, then, it should be noted that his treatise on the harmony
of the spheres lies inserted between his comments on §15 and §16 of Book I and not at the
section of Book II mentioned above, in which Capella presents an octave model of the planets
and their pitches. I propose that his choice was deliberate, for Eriugena’s discussion appears to
arise from this earlier portion in Book I, in which Capella describes the sacred and mysterious
grove of Apollo, where Mercury must journey with Virtue, his traveling companion, beginning at
§11. In fact, Eriugena’s glosses for §11–§15, which I examine first, outline much of the material
presented more fully in his treatise.
In §11, Mercury and Virtue approach Apollo’s grove and see the scope of human history:
empires rising and falling, human souls beginning and ending their earthly lives, and a “sweet
music” arising from the trees—symbolizing the music of the spheres:
Cf., Atkinson, The Critical Nexus, 11–15. The Immutable System combined pitches
defined in the tetrachords of the Greater Perfect System (two octaves, two pairs of conjunct
tetrachords separated by a middle point of disjunction, fifteen pitches) and Lesser Perfect System
(spanning an eleventh, three conjunct tetrachords, eleven pitches). Considered in terms of
individual pitches, the two systems overlap, so when they are combined there are sixteen pitches;
the B-flat from the Lesser Perfect System being the only new note. Considered in terms of
tetrachords, the combined systems result in five tetrachords with the addition of the synemmenon
and three new pitch designations: trite synemmenon, paranete synemmenon, and nete
synemmenon. See also Gabriela Currie’s “Concentum celi quis dormire faciet? Eriugenian
Cosmic Song and Carolingian Planetary Astronomy,” in Quomodo Cantabimus Canticum?:
Studies in Honor of Edward H. Roesner, ed. David Cannata, et al. (Middleton: American
Institute of Musicology, 2008), 19.
58 inter haec mira spectacula Fortunarumque cursus [motus] nemorum etiam susurrantibus
flabris canora modulatio melico quodam crepitabat appulsu. nam eminentiora prolixarum
arborum culmina perindeque distenta acuto sonitu resultabant; quicquid vero terrae
confine ac propinquum ramis acclinibus fuerat, gravitas rauca quatiebat. at media ratis
per annexa succentibus duplis ac susqualteris nec non etiam sesquitertiis, <sesqui>octavis
etiam sine discretione iuncturis, licet intervenirent limmata, concinebant. ita fiebat, ut
nemus illud harmoniam totam superumque carmen modulationum congruentia
Amidst these extraordinary scenes and these vicissitudes of Destinies, a sweet music
arose from the trees, a melody arising from their contact as the breeze whispered through
them; for the crests of the great trees were very tall and, because of this tension,
reverberated with a sharp sound [acuto sonitu, i.e., a high pitch]; but, whatever was close
to and near the ground, with drooping boughs, shook with a deep heaviness of sound
[gravitas rauca quatiebat, i.e., the lowest pitch]; while the trees of middle size in their
contacts with each other sang together in fixed harmonies of the duple, the sesquialtera,
the sesquitertia also, and even the sesquioctava without discrimination, although
semitones [limmata] came between. So it happened that the grove poured forth, with
melodious harmony, the whole music and song of the gods.135
Willis, Martianus Capella, 6–7.
Stahl, trans., Martianus Capella, 9–10. Comments in brackets are my own.
59 The ratios arising from Apollo’s trees (duple–2:1, sesquialtera–2:3, sesquitertia–3:4, and
sesquioctava–9:8) are the basis of Pythagorean tuning, systematized in the famous series
12:9:8:6. But, remarkably, Eriugena moves in another direction and, in his commentary, applies
a system of tetrachords to the sounding trees.
In omni musica quae cordis efficitur, tetracorda uel quina fiunt. Primum tetracordon
uocatur principalis principalium, secundum subprincipalis principalium, tertium
mediarum, quartum disiunctarum, quintum hyperboleon id est excellentium. In primo
ergo tetracordon grauitas uocum fit, in ultimo autem acuitas, et quicquid in medio
mixtura quaedam est inter grauitatem et acutum. Inde dicit in sequentibus: media ratis, id
est media arboris.
In all music that is made on strings, fourths and fifths arise. The first tetrachord is called
principalis principalium, the second [tetrachord is called] subprincipalis principalium,
the third mediarum, the fourth disiunctarum, the fifth hyperboleon, that is, excellentium.
Therefore, in the first tetrachord the lowest voice is made, but in the last [tetrachord] is
the highest, and whatever is in the middle is some kind of mixture between low and high.
Therefore, he says in the following, media ratis [middle of the raft] that is, in the middle
of the tree.
Next, Eriugena alludes to the fact that he understands the term “tone” (tonus) to refer to
shifting proportional relationships between the planets and not as if they were at fixed distances
60 from each other; he takes up this topic more fully in his treatise discussed below. Eriugena then
affirms that in his conception the music of the spheres spans two octaves.136
Though not mentioned specifically, it appears that the two octaves of the Immutable
System are what Eriugena had in mind, but with a few oddities. 1) In the passage quoted above,
Eriugena names the tetrachords principalis principalium, subprincipalis principalium, mediarum,
disiunctarum, and hyperboleon or excellentium, but these designations do not align with
Capella’s description of the tetrachords in DN IX (§961) or Boethius’s in DIM I.25 and IV.3.
Capella labels the tetrachords as principalium, mediarum, coniunctarum, separatarum, and
excellentium, and Boethius, quoting Albinus, lists them as principalium, mediarum,
coniunctarum, disiunctarum (divisarum at DIM IV.3), and excellentium. 2) Eriugena used the
string names principalis principalium and subprincipalis principalium (hypate hypaton and
parhypate hypaton) to refer to the first two tetrachords. 3) He named the disiunctarum
(diezeugmenon) tetrachord, but not the synemmenon.
Despite the peculiarities in how he names these tetrachords, it must be remembered, with
significance for the following, that in the Immutable System the central string, the mese,
occupies a central placement in the system considered as a whole as well as dynamically within
the different octave species. To this point, the following is a gloss from the so-called Anonymous
Commentary on Capella’s De Nuptiis:
Cf., Gabriela Currie, “Concentum celi quis dormire faciet? Eriugenian Cosmic Song
and Carolingian Planetary Astronomy,” in Quomodo Cantabimus Canticum?: Studies in Honor
of Edward H. Roesner, ed. David Cannata, et al. (Middleton: American Institute of Musicology,
2008). Currie writes, “Eriugena generates, for the first time in the history of medieval reevaluations of the Neoplatonic music of the spheres, a two-octave cosmic span with the Sun in
the middle, functioning as the mese. It becomes the unifying element for all Eriugenian
discussion of cosmic music . . .” (30).
61 OCTAVUS MECH Usque mece sunt grave[s] soni, a mece autem acuti sunt soni.
Octavus Mech [Octave Mese]: All the way to the mese the pitches are low, but from the
mese the pitches are high.137
Remembering that media is Capella’s translation of mese (§931), it suggests that
Eriugena means that the various tetrachords are definitively bound in relation to, or “lashed”
around, the central log of the entire “raft,” i.e., the media in Eriugena’s gloss for DN §11 (media
ratis). More importantly, the significance of the mese is observed in the act of tuning a
monochord in order to make audible the intellectually discerned pitches of the Immutable
System. The mese is the first pitch established at a ratio of 2:1, and, beginning with this one pitch,
the entire array of other pitches is established (cf., Boethius’s DIM IV.5).138 Therefore, it is
important to note that Eriugena identifies the Sun as mese in his glosses on §11:
MacInnis, trans., Teeuwen, Harmony and the Music of the Spheres, 493. The so-called
Anonymous commentary of glosses on Capella’s DN is considered to be the oldest from the
Carolingian era. This gloss tradition is the special concern of Mariken Teeuwen’s Harmony and
the Music of the Spheres in which she presents a critical edition of these glosses over DN Books I,
II, and IX.
Boethius, De institutione musica, trans. Calvin Bower (New Haven: Yale University
Press, 1989), 126ff. “Divide AB into four parts with three points: C, D, and E. Therefore the total,
AB, will be the duple of DB and AD, and AD and DB will each be duples of AC, CD, DE, and
EB. Thus AB will be the lowest (the proslambanomenos), and DB the mese, for it is half the total
length, and as AB is double the length of DB, DB is twice as high as AB. For, as was discussed
above, the relationship of length and pitch is always reversed; to the degree that a string is higher,
it will be shorter” (128).
62 Lymmata, id est emitonia. Hoc dicit quia a Sole usque ad Lunam quidam tonos integros
dicunt. Iterum a Sole usque ad Saturnum toni etiam integri dicuntur. Inde conficitur ut
Sol mise, id est medium locum teneat.
Lymmata, that is, a semitone [emitonia]. He says this, because some say the tones from
the Sun to the Moon are whole [tonos integros]. Again, the tones from the Sun to Saturn
are said to be whole. Thence, it turns out that the Sun is the mese, that is, it keeps a
middle place [locum, i.e., orbit].
Before proceeding, some observations should be made concerning ninth-century
considerations of the positioning of the planets and the nature of their orbits. Bruce Eastwood
argues forcefully that Eriugena drew on Pliny’s Naturalis historia, a document well known
during the ninth century, and that he did not advance any sort of heliocentrism.139 Rather, those
passages in Eriugena’s writings that seem to present heliocentrism should be interpreted as an
attempt by Eriugena, the great consolidator of systems, simultaneously to acknowledge
philosophical beliefs of the Sun as a central, divine intelligence and Capella’s actual text, which
does present a limited heliocentrism.140 In Pliny, Eriugena would have found a description of
planetary orbits about an eccentric Earth (i.e., the center of the Earth is displaced from the center
Bruce Eastwood, “Johannes Scottus Eriugena, Sun-Centered Planets, and Carolingian
Astronomy,” Journal for the History of Astronomy 32, 4 (2001): 314.
Eastwood, “Johannes Scottus,” 298.
63 of the planetary orbits), and this model would have satisfactorily accounted for his own
observations of the night sky.141
In §12 and §13, Mercury explains to Virtue that hearing the celestial music in Apollo’s
grove makes sense, since all the spheres of the cosmos are modulated (moduletur) by the Sun.
Mercury then shows Virtue seven rivers (beginning in §14) that they must cross and that also
symbolize the planetary orbits. These multicolored rivers are presented in the following order:
Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Sun, Venus, Mercury, and Moon. In describing these rivers, Capella pays
special attention to Venus, over which human souls seem to obsess:
It should be noted that other scholars do not share Eastwood’s view (e.g., Jeauneau, cf.,
Eastwood, “Johannes Scottus,” 314n.5); i.e., they read the following lines from Eriugena’s
Periphyseon literally: “But the planets which revolve about it [i.e., the Sun] change their colors
in accordance with the qualities of the regions they are traversing, I mean Jupiter and Mars,
Venus and Mercury, which always pursue their orbits around the Sun, as Plato teaches in the
Timaeus; and therefore when they are above the Sun they show a bright face, but when below a
ruddy face” (Sheldon-Williams, trans., Periphyseon III, SLH 11, 207). (Planetae uero quae circa
eum uoluuntur mutant colores secundum qualitates spatiorum in quibus discurrunt, Iouem dico et
Martem, Venerem et Mercurium. Quae semper circulos suos circa solem peragunt, sicut Plato in
Timaeo edocet; atque ideo dum supra solem sunt, claros ostendunt uultus, dum uero infra rubeos;
Periphyseon III, CCCM 163, 113, PL122:698A.) Eastwood’s point is that, if Eriugena literally
asserted that these four planets circled the Sun, it would have met with loud disagreement in the
ninth century (which it did not) and contradict Plato’s actual text in Timaeus—as well as any
careful observation of the night sky. While acknowledging Erickson’s compelling arguments, it
is curious to note that in his comments on DN §8 (translated below), Eriugena wrote: “Venus
uero et Mercurius non ambiunt terram sicut tres planetae qua sunt supra Solem, sed circa Solem
64 verum interior illo electro purior resplendebat amnis, quem praeter ceteros Fortunarum
ille consistens populus appetebat, quarum alias eius odor et halatus illexerat, alias lenis
undae canori permulsere modulatus; gustum autem haustumque quamplures ex eodem
dulcissimo gurgite sitiebant. nec deerant, qui eadem foveri abluique lympha ac se in illam
Within shone a river purer than amber, with a crowd of people standing beside it who
desired this more than the other rivers of the Destinies [Fortunarum]; some of these
people were allured by its fragrant perfume; others were charmed by the sound of gentle
melody from its waves. Many were thirsting to taste a drink of its delicious stream, while
some people wanted the water to bathe and sooth themselves and to be immersed in it.143
For Capella, the individual and corporate destinies of humans are connected to the
movements of the planets symbolized in these multicolored rivers; in §15, he wrote,
Hi igitur cursus discoloris amnes praedictas rerum nationumque Fortunas immensis
primo sinibus ambiebant. tunc diversa undarum violensque rapiditas singulas quasque
pervadens improvisa vi per declivis alvei praecipites lapsus rapidis turbinibus pertrahebat,
ita ut alius easdem plerumque alteri transfunderet fluvio . . .144
Willis, Martianus Capella, 7–8.
Stahl, trans., Martianus Capella, 10–11.
Willis, Martianus Capella, 8.
65 These streams of variegated hue encircled [ambiebant] the aforementioned Destinies of
events and of nations with windings at first immense. But then the different speeds and
rushing force of the waves, lapping each Destiny with surprising violence, dragged them
headlong downward with rapid eddies; one stream would often pour them into
another . . .145
In a way that similarly connects souls and planets, it is striking that in his comments over this
section Eriugena twice glossed the word ambiebant, once in reference to the orbits of the planets
and then referring to human souls. He noted that Platonic doctrine holds that souls move between
Heaven and Earth and meet both good and ill along the way:
Inmensis finibus: propter inmensitatem dicit. Propter hoc dicit quia MARCUS TVLLIVS
in Somnio Scipionis dicit quod omnes animae descendunt de caelo, et unaquaque anima
habet suam fortunam, et in illo loco discendunt ubi signum Leonis est. Primo enim
descendunt in circulum Saturni, et hoc est primum malum propter frigiditatem terrae.
Deinde in circulum Iouis: ibi temperiem quandam accipiunt propter temperantiam, quia
Iouis dicitur salutaris in omnia. Inde ad Martem: ibi etiam accipiunt quasi malum propter
furorem et maximum calorem eius. Inde ad Solem: ibi quaedam requies fit propter
ingenium; est enim Sol quasi anima mundi.
Inmensis finibus [By immeasurable boundaries]: [Capella] says this because of [their, i.e.,
the planetary orbits’] immensity. He says this because Marcus Tullius [Cicero], in The
Stahl, trans., Martianus Capella, 11.
66 Dream of Scipio, says that all souls descend from Heaven, and every single soul has its
own fate, and they descend at the constellation Leo [ubi signum Leonis est]. First, they
descend into the orbit of Saturn, and this is the first misfortune because of the coldness of
the region [terrae]. Then, in the orbit of Jupiter, they receive a certain tempering because
of moderation, because Jupiter is said to be the salvation of all. Then, [they descend] to
Mars; there they receive, as it were, evil, because of its fury and extreme heat. Then, to
the Sun; there is a certain rest because of [its] nature. Indeed, the Sun is just as the World
Soul [anima mundi].
After an earthly death, these souls must then ascend back to Heaven, traversing the same
celestial path; some souls make it, while others are lost, forever caught in “the lower regions.”
And it is with this mention of the plight of souls transmigrating the sounding spheres that
Eriugena inserted his harmonic treatise, “Concerning the Harmony of Heavenly Movements and
the Sounds of the Stars.”
Concerning the Harmony of Heavenly Movements and the Sounds of the Stars
Eriugena’s treatise begins by dividing the heavens into two octaves. The lowest pitch is
produced by Saturn, the highest by the Firmament; the Sun stands in the middle as the mese.
Specifically, there are eight pitches produced by the seven planets and the Firmament. These
pitches are determined by speed, length of orbit, and, in the case of the planets, their relation to
the whirling Firmament. Eriugena states that the pitches rise between Saturn and the moon (the
67 opposite of Capella’s description in DN Book II) and that those planets below the Sun strain
upwards toward those sounds that are higher in terms of placement.146
Eriugena makes the notable assertion that it is “not the positioning of the planets, but the
proportional ratio of the pitches [that] produces the heavenly harmony,”147 and he explains 1)
why this understanding is significant and 2) possible sources of confusion. Using the Sun and
Saturn as an example, he clarifies that depending on their placement in relation to each other, not
their position above the Earth, these planets can bring forth an octave, a fifth, and a fourth. Said
another way, as the Sun and Saturn approach each other in their courses, the harmony between
them will change. Eriugena claimed that once this principle is grasped, one may believe “that in
the eight sounds of the heavens all possible musical consonances can be made—not only through
the three genera, I mean the diatonic, chromatic, and enharmonic, but, likewise, even in others,
[i.e., other genera,] which are beyond all mortal reasoning.”148
“Moreover, [the planets] located under the Sun stretch toward the higher sounds,
because they are both farther from the speed of the sphere and run in shorter orbits in the
heavens.” (Quae autem sub Sole localiter, quoniam et longius a spherica uelocitate distant et in
breuioribus mundi spatiis discurrunt, acutiores sonos extendunt.)
The full sentence reads as follows: “And, through this, not the positioning of the
planets, but the proportional ratio of the pitches produces the heavenly harmony, particularly
since this ratio does not depend upon the position ascending and descending in the cosmos.” (Ac
per hoc, non locorum positio sed proportionis sonorum ratio caelestem efficit armoniam,
presertim cum non sinat ratio sursum et deorsum localiter in uniuerso.)
Ac per hoc, in octo caelestibus sonis omnes musicas consonantias fieri posse
credendum est, non tantum per tria genera, diatonicum, dico, chrommaticum, enarmonicum,
uerum etiam in aliis ultra omnium mortalium ratiocinationem.
68 Eriugena discerned that confusions in terminology were a hurdle to be overcome in
understanding his presentation. In the next section, he took up the term tonus and explained its
Et notandum quod illi toni qui a terra computantur ad spheram, uerbi gratia, a terra ad
Lunam tonus, non sint in proportionibus uocum, sed in interuallis locorum. Tonorum
enim multae species sunt. Siquidem toni sunt interualla siderum, hoc est, quantum distat
unumquodque ab alio quantumque Luna elongatur a terra: qui toni pro diuersitate
absidarum et circulorum uariantur. Quam speciem tonorum MARTIANVS diffinit
dicens: “Tonus est spatium cum legitima quantitate.” Quae species in musica diastema
uocatur. Sunt toni temporum, in longitudine et breuitate constituti. Sunt toni spirituum in
spisitudine et exilitate uocum. Sunt toni armonici, de quibus nunc agitur, in grauitate et
altitudine sonorum, ex quibus omnis proportionalitas simfoniarum constituitur.
And it should be noted that these tones [toni, i.e., considered as distances], which are
calculated from the Earth to the Sphere, e.g., the tone [tonus] from Earth to the Moon,
may not be in the ratios of the pitches [in proportionibus uocum], but in the distances of
their positions. For there are many kinds of tones. Accordingly, tones [tonorum] are
distances between the stars, i.e., how far each [planet] is apart from another and how far
the Moon is removed from the Earth. [These] tones [tonorum] vary according to the
diversities of [the planets’] arcs and orbits. It is this kind of tones [tonorum] that
Martianus defines, saying, “A tone [tonus] is a distance with a measure, determined by
rule.” This kind [of tone] is called “interval” [diastema] in music. [Alternately,] there are
69 tones of time [toni temporum], arranged in long or short duration. There are tones of
breath [toni spirituum], defined in density or sparseness of sounds [uocum]. [And] there
are tones of harmonies [toni armonici], which are now under discussion [de quibus nunc
agitur], defined in lowness and highness of sounds, of which each proportion of
consonances [omnis proportionalitas simfoniarum] is composed.
In this discussion, Eriugena initially explains Capella’s use of the term tonus in a way
that would encompass one sense of modus, as a specific set of pitches and intervals, though what
mattered for Eriugena were the proportional relationships at play within the entire moving
system, the “tones of harmonies” and not specific pitches applied to each planet.149 As an
example, Eriugena pointed to the organ. The placement of any particular organ pipe makes no
difference for the proportional relationships between all the pipes considered as a system. In
another analogy, this time to a choir of vocalists, Eriugena summarized all of the preceding
Cf., Barbara Münxelhaus, “Aspekte Der Musica Disciplina Bei Eriugena,” in Jean
Scot Érigène et l’Histoire de la Philosophie (Paris: Éditions du Centre National de la Recherche
Scientifique, 1977), 262. Münxelhaus summarizes the exceptional nature of Eriugena’s
presentation thus: “Damit geht Eriugena über die traditionellen Systeme der Planetenskalen, die
in ihrer Intervallfolge festgelegt sind, weit hinaus. Weder vor Eriugena noch nach ihm sind mir
Systeme der Sphärenharmonie bekannt, die von einer festgelegten Planetenskala abgehen und in
dieser erstaunlichen Konsequenz zu einem grundsätzlich variablen System führen.” (Thus,
Eriugena goes far beyond the traditional systems of planetary scales that are defined in their
interval sequence. Neither before Eriugena nor after him are systems for the harmony of the
spheres known to me that deviate from a fixed planetary scale and lead in this amazing
consequence to a fundamentally variable system.)
70 Vtamur ergo exemplo quodam quo manifestius apareat quod conamur asserere. In choro,
ubi multi simul cantantes consonant, non locus in quo unusquisque constituitur sed
proportio suae uocis consideratur. In quocunque enim loco fuerit qui grauissimam uocem
emittit, necesse est grauissimam uocum omnium proportionem optineat. Eadem ratione,
ubicunque in choro sit qui acutissimam uocem profert, necessario sonorum omnium
acumen tenebit. De succinentibus similiter intelligendum, quorum non localis possitio sed
proportionalis uociferatio in uniuersitate modulaminis diiudicatur. Frustra igitur localium
interuallorum rationibus caelestem musicam coartari arbitrantur. In quo nihil aliud
conspicitur nisi grauitatis et acuminis ascensus atque descensus.
Now, let us use a certain example so that it may be clearly evident what we are trying to
assert. In a choir where many singers sing together simultaneously, the place where each
[singer] is situated is not considered, rather, the proportional relationship of his sounding
voice [to the others]. For, wherever the person who sings the lowest pitch will have been
positioned, it is necessary that he should maintain the lowest ratio of all pitches [uocum].
By the same reasoning, wherever in the choir might be the one who sings [profert] the
highest pitch, he necessarily will hold the highest of all pitches [sonorum].
Accompanying voices [succinentibus] should be similarly understood; of which, not the
placed position, but the proportional relationship between the voices [proportionalis
uociferatio] is distinguished in the whole of the melody. Therefore, in vain, one considers
the heavenly music to be constrained by the ratios of local intervallic distances [localium
interuallorum rationibus], in which nothing else is seen except the ascent and descent of
lowness and highness.
71 Here, after such a fascinating and challenging discussion, previous scholars have ended
their considerations of Eriugena and the harmony of the spheres.150 Examining the context for
Eriugena’s treatise suggests that more should be said, though. I have already mentioned that this
treatise is inserted immediately after Eriugena twice glosses the verb ambio in two separate
senses: ambio applied to planets and souls. The treatise now continues specifically on the topic
Sectam platonicam antiquissimorum Grecorum de lapsu et apostrophia animarum. Qui
ueluti omnes animas simul conditas ante corpora terrena in celestibus stellarum aditis
delirantur, quae uelocitatem caelestis spherae non ualentes nec uolentes consequi,
tarditatem uero Saturni eligentes, primo de celestibus sedibus in Saturni ambitum lapsae
sunt, deinde inchoantes cadere nulla ratione retineri ualentes, per diuersos planetarum
circulos usque ad terrena corpora cadere conpulsae sunt, in quibus delictorum diuersis
sordibus pollutae iterum ab eis resolui coguntur et ad inferna descendere, hoc est ad illam
uitam quae carnis mortem sequitur.
[The following is according to] the Platonic sect of the most ancient Greeks concerning
the fall and returning [apostrophia] of souls, who, as with all souls simultaneously
created before earthly bodies, are led astray, having been deceived in the starry heavens
[in celestibus stellarum aditis delirantur]. Being neither strong enough nor willing to
follow the speed of the celestial sphere, they choose the slowness of Saturn. First, down
By which, I mean that other scholars have not incorporated Eriugena’s subsequent
discussions of the soul when explaining Eriugena’s account of the harmony of the spheres, e.g.,
Münxelhaus, “Aspekte der Musica Disciplina.”
72 from the celestial seats they fall into the revolutions of Saturn, and from there, beginning
to fall and without reason strong enough to hold them, they are impelled to fall through
the various orbits of the planets all the way to earthly bodies, in which, by diverse sins
and polluted by filth, they are forced again to be loosened and to descend to the lower
regions, i.e., to that life which follows the death of the flesh.
Sin is the obstacle that keeps these souls from regaining Heaven, and apotheosis (a.k.a.
deification or theosis) is needed (remembering that Eriugena understood apotheosis as the final
and complete union of elect souls with God).151 Eriugena’s treatise on the harmony of the
spheres ends with the following:
Quoniam uero corporalibus maculis pollutae sine purgatione quam ΑΠΟΘΕΩCΙΝ
appellabant, id est redificationem, quoniam primo in unitate diuinitati adherebant, ut
putabant, ad quam purgatae reuertebantur, illuc peruenire non poterant, in ipsis
planetarum meatibus purgari estimabant, et quia aetheria spatia non eiusdem qualitatis
sunt, quaedam quidem frigida, quaedam uero ardentia, quaedam temperata dicuntur esse,
pro qualitate meritorum singulas singulis deputabant. Et meatum quidem Saturni Stigem
uocabant, hoc est tristitiam: inde alludit MARTIANVS dicens “mestissimum deorum”
Saturnum, propter nimietatem frigoris, quae Solis longinquitate et cursus tarditate
nascitur. Martis uero meatum ΠYΡΦΛΗΓΕΤΟΝ uocabant, hoc est ignem flammantem. In
quibus duobus meatibus impias animas aut semper torqueri si nimiae nequitiae forent, aut
purgari ut ad quietem quandam possent redire. Quam quietem in meatu Iouis et Veneris
Cf., Periphyseon V, PL122:935C-D.
73 esse putabant, in quibus ΕΛYCΕΟC, hoc est solutionis ex poenis campos esse putabant.
Quoniam uero amoris corporum, quibus nascentibus adiunctae sunt neque in
purgationibus neque in quietibus oblitae sunt, etiam purgatae redire iterum ad corpora
quaedam quidem appetunt, quaedam uero spretis omnino corporibus suas naturaliter
adeunt stellas, uidelicet ex quibus lapsae sunt. Ideoque ait quasdam ad ripas redditas, hoc
est ad pristinum statum, quasdam uero corporibus omnino liberari. Animarum autem
liberam examinationem, qua deliberant utrum ad corpora reuersurae sunt an, omni
corporea habitatione spreta, ad sedes pristinas reuersurae, per alteram furtunarum de
amne in amnem et reciprocum de flumine ad flumen reditum significat. Non potuit enim
liuida unda, ut ipse ait, eas retinere. Tantae siquidem libertatis est humana anima ut, si
uelit in miseria manere, maneat, sin in sua cinceritate permaneat. Sat est de humanarum
cogitationum miseria deque infidelium machinamentis.
[Souls] are unable to reach [their former placement] without the purification called
ἀποθέωσις [i.e., apotheosis], i.e., redeification, because of the corporeal stains of
pollution. [The Ancient Greeks] believed that [as souls] cling first to divinity in
[indivisible] unity, [there they should] return, after having been cleansed, [but stained
souls] are unable to make it back. It is in these pathways of the planets [that the Greeks]
believed souls to be cleansed. Since the ethereal spaces are not of the same nature, indeed,
some are said to be cold, some fiery hot, some temperate, they assigned each one [i.e.,
souls] individually a place according to their own merits. The pathway of Saturn is called
the river Styx; this is sadness, to which Martianus alludes calling Saturn the “most
unhappy of the gods,” because of its excess of cold, which comes about due to its
74 distance from the Sun and the slowness of its orbit. The pathway of Mars is called
πυριφλεγέθων, i.e., fire inflaming. In these two pathways [i.e., Saturn and Mars], wicked
spirits are either always to be tormented, if they had been excessively wicked, or to be
cleansed, and so are able to return to a certain respite [quietem]. This respite was believed
to be in the pathway of Jupiter and Venus, in which are the Elysian fields [i.e., Ἠλύσιον
πεδίον], this is what they thought to be the plains for the relaxation from penalty. But,
because of love of the flesh, to which they have been yoked from birth, these souls are
neither in the state of purifications nor in the forgetful rest of those having been cleansed,
rather, and seek to return again to a body. [On the other hand,] some [souls] completely
despise their bodies and naturally approach the stars from which they evidently had fallen.
Therefore, he [i.e., Capella] says, some [souls] are restored to the shores, that is, to a
former state, some to be entirely freed from bodies. Moreover, the free balance of souls,
by which it is considered whether they are going to return to bodies or, having scorned all
fleshly lodging, to return to their former seat, is signified through one of the destinies [i.e.,
fortunarum] moving out of and returning to various streams. Indeed, not even a malicious
wave could restrain them, as he himself said. So great is the freedom of the human soul
that if it should wish to remain in misery, it remains, [and, contrariwise,] if in its integrity
[cinceritate] it should persevere. So much is sufficient [to say] concerning the misery of
human thinking and concerning the machinations of the unfaithful.
Eriugena’s insistence on “the free balance of souls” (animarum autem liberam
examinationem) is interesting to note, considering his participation in the predestination
controversies of the ninth century. But, more to the point, it seems that as Eriugena preferred a
75 more complex understanding of the tones between planets (proportion in reference to the Sun vs.
fixed intervals), so he articulated an approach that considered the soul’s journey through the
heavens to be more than a journey from point A to point B. Stated simply, his aim in these
glosses was to expound a comprehensive understanding of the soul, that it must regulate itself
carefully in pursuit of deification.
At this point, one observes the brilliance in Eriugena’s presentation. For, as human
intellect cultivated in the liberal arts understands musical proportions and modulates music
well,152 the cosmos has a proportional ordering considered in reference to the central, modulating
Sun (standing for divine intelligence), and, just so, the soul (metaphorically journeying through
the heavens) necessitates an appropriate ordering, guided by intellect, fortified by moral strength,
and undistracted by base sensuality.
Music, Soul, and Cosmos
To add to the foregoing consideration of music, soul, and cosmos and as a conclusion to
this chapter, I will discuss Eriugena’s glosses over DN §7. In §7, Mercury considers Psyche, the
human soul, as a potential bride. Her beauty and education, as well as the divine favor shown her,
all commend Psyche as an outstanding candidate. Capella described her as the daughter of the
Sun and Aristotle’s Entelechia; thus, she symbolizes the realization or actuality of divine
potentiality (the fiery Sun was considered the primary, creative element).153 Eriugena made
Neoplatonic doctrine more explicit at this point; he noted that, in this reading, the Sun stands in
for the Divine Intelligence or Nous and, glossing speculum, wrote that the soul participates in a
Here, I am using Augustine’s (as well as Censorinus’s and Cassiodorus’s) definition
of musica as scientia bene modulandi, i.e., modulatio, from modus, the application of measure.
Stahl, Martianus Capella, 6n.16.
76 Per speculum significatur origo animae, ut sciat qua origine est creata, id est a sapientia
ad intelligentiam et postea ad animam.
By speculum [mirror] is signified the origin of the soul, so that it knows from what source
it was created, that is, from wisdom to intelligence and afterwards to soul.
Capella writes that, at her birth, Psyche was given many divine presents; for example, she
received Eternity’s diadem from Jupiter, the veil and breast-band of Athena, prophetic insight
and astrological discernment from Apollo, and, from Urania (Muse of Astronomy), a mirror
(speculum, glossed above) “in which Psyche could recognize herself and learn her origins.”
Capella described her gifts from Aphrodite and Mercury as follows, in §7:
omnes vero illecebras circa sensus cunctos apposuit Aphrodite; nam et unguentis oblitam
floribusque redimitam halatu pasci foverique docuerat et melle permulserat et auro et
monilibus inhiare membraque vinciri honorationis celsae affectatione persuaserat. tunc
crepitacula tinnitusque, quis infanti somnum duceret, adhibebat quiescenti. praeterea ne
ullum tempus sine illecebra oblectamentisque decurreret, pruritui subscalpentem circa
ima corporis apposuerat voluptatem. sed vehiculum ei ac volatiles rotas, quis mira posset
celeritate discurrere, tradiderat ipse Cyllenius, licet eam auri compedibus illigatam
Willis, Martianus Capella, 6–7.
77 Aphrodite had given to all her senses every kind of pleasure; she had spread ointment on
Psyche, garlanded her with flowers, taught her to appreciate and enjoy perfume and to
delight in the sweetness of honey. Also, she implanted in her a desire for gold and
jewelry and a taste for wearing rich ornament. When she rested, Aphrodite brought her
rattles and bells with which one lulls a baby to sleep; then, to make sure that she was
never without amusement and delectation, Aphrodite assigned Pleasure to stimulate
desire in her by intimate titillation. The Cyllenian [Mercury] himself gave her a vehicle
with swift wheels in which she could travel at an astonishing speed, although Memory
bound it and weighed it down with golden chains.155
Eriugena read Mercury’s gift of a vehicle positively as the soul’s natural swiftness, but he
read the chains of Memory as holding it back in a negative sense. Aphrodite’s gifts are more
complicated. Recalling the previously discussed portion of DN, in which human souls pay undue
attention to the stream symbolizing Venus, one must keep in mind that to Platonic thought
sensual, earthly pleasures were distractors for the soul, which should rather orient itself upward
by intellect and reason. Accordingly, Eriugena called all Aphrodite’s gifts “the contaminations
and allurements of this life,” e.g., Aphrodite’s musical instruments lull Psyche to sleep. As any
Platonist would, in answer to the problem of Memory’s chains and the sensual distractions of
earthly existence, Eriugena urges moral strength:
Stahl, trans., Martianus Capella, 7.
78 Per ueiculum uelocitas ingenii significatur. Abstulit omnem tarditatem ab anima. Per
‘compedes’ significatur memoria quae custodit quaedam ex animi uelocitate. Sed est
uirtus suadendi, uirtus intelligentiae, uirtus conceptionis animi.
Ueiculum [i.e., Vehiculum, vehicle] signifies a natural swiftness. It removes all slowness
from the soul. Memory is signified by compedes [chains], which restrain things from the
swiftness of the mind. But moral strength [uirtus] is to be urged—the strength of
intelligence, the strength of the concept of the soul.
Therefore, Eriugena, following Capella, maps the soul’s journey onto the cosmic system
as an analogy for deification. That is, Eriugena described how, by avoiding the charms of earthly
existence (symbolized by Venus) and through self-regulation via intellect (symbolized by the
Sun), the soul, by moral development, strains toward God. This analogy plays out also in how, as
Eriugena had said, the planets below the Sun strain upward towards the Firmament, and,
similarly, the human soul strains toward God. To this point, Eriugena’s gloss from §15 before his
treatise on the harmony of the spheres is relevant:
Decliuis aluei, quasi ad uallem descendentes. Omnes animae rationabiles, quantum ad
Deum pertinent et ad Deum intendunt, sine contagione sunt. Quando uero ad inferiora
descendunt et corpora uel corporibus adhaerentia diligunt, uitiis ex natura corporum
assumptis adgrauantur. Et iterum, cum damnantur, redeunt in caelum quasi penitentia
ducti et per eosdem circulos planetarum ascendunt, et ibi bona et mala inueniunt sicuti
79 cum descendentes inuenerunt, et postea quasi ex carcere redeunt et uertuntur in stellas,
aut etiam in inferno remanent.
Decliuis aluei [Slope of a trench], as if descending to a valley. All rational spirits, as long
as they reach and strain after God, are without infection. When they descend to lower
places and desire bodies or sticking to bodies, they are weighed down, having assumed
vices from fleshly nature. Likewise, when they are condemned, they return into heaven,
as if having been led by penitence, and through the same orbits of the planets they ascend,
finding good and evil, just as they found when they descended. In the end, they return as
if from prison and turn [uertuntur] among the stars or remain in the lower region.
In his interpretation of theosis by way of a cosmic analogy, we may observe another
example of Eriugena relating the cosmos to the human soul (and not vice versa, as with other
Neoplatonists). And more examples of this principle may be found. For example, Eriugena’s
lengthiest discussions of the soul, again bound together with harmonic analogies and the cosmos,
appear in Periphyseon, to which he added complex theologies, such as theophany, his own
Hexameron, and explanations for the nature of man.
Translation of Eriugena’s Annotationes In Marcianum, I:1-30 (Oxford, Bodleian Library,
Below, I have listed in three columns 1) the section numbers of DN, 2) Eriugena’s Latin
glosses as published by Jeauneau,156 and 3) my English translation. The standard section
Eduard Jeauneau, “Le commentaire érigénien sur Martianus Capella (De nuptiis,
Lib.I) d’après le manuscrit d’Oxford (Bodl.Libr. Auct.T.2.19, fol. 1-31),” in Quatre thèmes
érigéniens (Montreal: L’Institut d’études médiévales Albert-le-Grand, 1978).
80 numbers used to divide the DN text are not included with Jeauneau’s edition, but they are
employed in Willis’s critical Latin edition of DN and Stahl’s translation of DN.157 It would have
been ideal to also include a column for Capella’s Latin text, but that ultimately appeared
impracticable due to the constraints of space.158
In my translation, I have italicized the Latin words selected by Eriugena for comment,
regardless of whether they were italicized or placed in quotation marks in Jeauneau’s edition,
and followed them with an English translation in square brackets. Overall, I have followed
Jeauneau’s orthography except for 1) eliminating page breaks in the manuscript (represented by
Jeauneau with a vertical bar: “|”), 2) placing punctuation within quotation marks, 3) exchanging
single quotes for double quotes, and 4) separating the grapheme “æ” as “ae.” For those Greek
words presented by Eriugena in all-capital letters, I have supplied an accented presentation of the
Greek when I thought the word obvious; in other instances, where Eriugena’s or Capella’s Greek
is too ambiguous, I have kept the word in all-caps or inserted a bracketed question mark by my
suggestion. For example, I have substituted Ἄπειρος ἀγαθός for Eriugena’s AΠIPΩ AΓAΘOC,
in §7, but left ΓYMNOΛOΓOYCEIC as it stands, in §2. When Eriugena uses Greek words but
does not capitalize them, I have often inserted the actual Greek. For example, I substituted λόγος
for Eriugena’s logos, in §1. Finally, I do not often comment on those places where Eriugena’s
usage of Greek is problematic, for example, when he pursues Greek etymologies as with the
James Willis, Martianus Capella (Leipzig: Teubner, 1983). William Stahl and Richard
Johnson, trans., Martianus Capella and the Seven Liberal Arts, Volume II, The Marriage of
Philology and Mercury (New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 1977).
N.B., Eriugena’s glosses do not correspond to every section in DN; therefore, some
numbers below are left blank, e.g., §12 and §13.
81 word ania, in §7. When I do make a suggestion, I have placed it within square brackets or in a
At times, Eriugena’s annotations presuppose an intimate knowledge of the DN story and
Latin text, and his comments make little sense without such familiarity. For those not well
acquainted with Capella, I have tried to render a straightforward English translation so that the
context for Eriugena’s comments can be referenced easily, using the section numbers and an
English translation such as Stahl’s. By such a straightforward translation, I acknowledge that I
may incur the “blame of the faithful translator” (culpam fidei interpretis) as Eriugena himself
feared in regard to his translation of Pseudo-Dionysius’s Celestial Hierarchy.159
INCIPIVNT GLOSAE MARTIANI
THE GLOSSES ON MARTIANUS BEGIN
Martianus in isto libro mixtim ueritatem
Martianus [Minneus Felix Capella], in this
cum fabulis dixit. Nam in artibus uera
book, spoke a mixture of truth and fable. For he
dixit, in aliis autem figmenta quaedam.
spoke truthfully concerning the arts, but about
Ideo autem multis nominibus appellatur
other subjects [he spoke] certain fictions.
ut nobilitas sua ostendatur. Martianus
Therefore, he is called by many names, that his
enim a Marte dicitur. Mineus a mineo
fame should be revealed. “Martianus” is said to
colore. Felix autem proprium nomen est, derive from “Mars.” Minneus [derives] from a
aut a felicitate dicitur. Capella dicitur
reddish color. Felix, however, is [his] proper
Paul Rorem, Commentary on the Dionysian Celestial Hierarchy (Toronto: Pontifical
Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 2005), 49.
82 propter instabilitatem suae disputationis:
name, is said [to derive] from felicitas [felicity
quaedam enim falsa, quaedam uera
or good fortune]. He is called Capella because
dixit. Et sicut in sequentibus ideo
of the instability of his reasonings: indeed, some
appellatur peculiare nomen. Duo
things he said are false, [but] other things he
Martiani erant, unus pater et alter filius;
said are true. And, therefore, just as in the
et pater hos uersus cantabat de laude
following, he is called by a specific name.
Hymenei, et filius interrogabat unde
There were two Martianuses, one the father and
erant. Videntur enim ante Martianum
the other the son; and this father sang verses
uetustum esse compositi.
concerning the praise of Hymen, and the son
asked where they came from. Indeed, they
appeared to have been composed [at a time]
before the older Martianus.
Ideo autem iste liber De nuptiis
This book is called Concerning the Marriage of
Philologiae et Mercurii dicitur, quia
Philology and Mercury, because Mercury
Mercurius multas uirgines quaesiuit, sed
inquired after many maidens, but was not able
non potuit inuenire propter
to find [a suitable match] because of their
propinquitatem earum, atque ideo
nearness [of kinship], and so he found
Philologiam inuenit. Mercurius dicitur
Philology. Mercury is called word; indeed, by
sermo, inde a Grecis dicitur EPMHC, et
the Greeks he is called ῾Ερµῆς and is
interpretatur medius currens. Sermo
understood as he who runs between; indeed, the
enim inter homines currit. Philologia
word runs between men. Philology is
uero studium sapientiae interpretatur:
interpreted as the study of wisdom. Φίλος is
83 philos enim amor uel studium, logos
love or zeal, [and] λόγος is reason. Mercury,
ratio. Non potuit ergo Mercurius aliam
therefore, was not able to have another wife
uxorem habere quam studium sapientiae
[other] than zeal for wisdom or reason.
Hymeneus: ISIDORVS dicit
Hymeneus: Isidor calls [this] the membrane
membranulam in lumbis possitam. Qui
placed in the loins. Those who discuss the
autem de natura rerum disputant aiunt
nature of things say there are two membranes,
duas membranulas esse, una quae est
one which is around the brain which in Greek is
circa cerebrum quae grece uocatur
called ὑµήν[?], the other is in the side, which in
MHNIKA, altera uero quae est in
Greek is called φρήν, thence, frenetic passion.
lateribus, quae gr(ece) dicitur ΦPEN,
Moreover, if anyone would attend more deeply:
inde frenetica passio. Si quis autem
the sense of Hymeneus is from ἥµενος [i.e.,
altius attenderit, ab eo quod est
from ἧµαι, “to sit”], having to do with “sitting.”
“himenos,” inde Himeneus sesilis. Ipse
He himself [i.e., the god, Hymen] arranges the
enim ordinat sedilia nuptiarum deorum
marriage seats of the gods and goddesses, that
et dearum, id est concordiam omnium
is, the harmony of all discordant things. And,
rerum discordantium. Et ipse dicitur
[in the text,] he is called Cupid. On the other
Cupido. Nam Venus non legitur alium
hand, Venus is not read to have another son
filium habere nisi unum, qui uocatur
except the one, who is called Cupid.
84 Inde quaestio oritur: Cur dicitur in his
Thence, an inquiry arises: Why in these lines is
uersibus eum esse progenitum a
[Hymen] said to be the progeny of Camena,
Camena, cum Camena dicitur esse mater when Camena is said to be the mother of all the
omnium Musarum, et a canendo dicitur?
Muses, and is named after [the word,] canendo
Si igitur filius Camenae est, non est
[singing]? If he is the son of Camena, he is not
filius Veneris, quae uocatur alio nomine
the son of Venus—who is called elsewhere by
Kypris, id est mixtura.
the other name, Κύπρις, that is, [in Latin,] the
alloy [i.e., copper].
Sic soluitur. Progenitum deum pro
Thus [the work] opens: Progenitum deum
genitiuo plurali debemus accipere, id
[which] we must accept for the genitive plural,
est: progenitarum dearum. Et sic
that is, Progenitarum dearum [progenies of the
construitur: Quem perhibent psallentem
goddesses]. And it is constructed in this way:
thalamis copula sacra progenitum deum,
they regard what is played on the strings for the
id est progenitarum dearum matre
sacred union of marriage [to be] the production
Camena. Et sic est sensus: Deae
of the gods, that is, the products of [those]
progenitae a matre Camena, id est,
goddesses from the mother, Camena. And this is
nouem Musae perhibent istum
the sense: those goddesses, the nine Muses,
begotten from their mother Camena, bestow that
playing of the strings for marriage.
Ista laus de generali amore est. Ista
This praise is concerning general love; it does
igitur laus non ad illum qui dicitur
not pertain to that one who is said to be the
85 praeesse libidinibus pertinet, sed ad
chief of wantonness, but to that one who unites
illum qui copulat omnes amores in
all loves in one. Indeed, just as the harmony of
unum. Sicut enim per Musas armonia
all things is signified through the Muses, thus,
omnium rerum significatur, sic per
through Hymen, [is signified] the general love
Hymeneum omnis amor generalis qui
of all things that joins all things.
“Thalamus” dicitur AΠO TOY
Thalamus [marriage chamber] means ἀπὸ τοῦ
ΘHΛIMATOC, hoc est a uoluntate.
θελήµατος, that is, willingly.160
Semina pugnantia: ideo dixit quia
Semina pugnantia [fighting seeds]: he said this
semina sunt quaedam quae ante tempus
because there are certain seeds that, before
uolunt surgere, sed in archanis uinculis,
[their] time, wish to rise, but in concealed
id est in secretis naturae sinibus,
chains, that is, in the secret folds of nature, are
retinentur ne ante tempus surgant. Atque held back [so as] not to rise before [the
ideo dixit stringens “qui stringit,” et est
appropriate] time. Therefore, he said, stringens
[drawing tight], “who draws tight,” and it is a
Dissona nexa, id est elimenta
Dissona nexa [dissonant unions], that is,
discordantia. Nam quattuor elementa
discordant elements. For there are four elements
Eriugena seems to have θάλαµος [bedroom, marriage chamber, marriage] confused
with θέληµα [will].
86 sunt in mundo, in quibus consistit omne
in the world in which each object consists, i.e.,
corpus, id est ignis, aer, aqua, terra. Duo
fire, air, water, earth. Two are contrary: fire,
igitur contraria sunt: ignis id est calor, et
which is heat, and coldness, which is water.
frigiditas id est aqua. Duo iterum
Another two are contrary: moistness and
contraria sunt: humiditas et siccitas,
dryness, moistness, which is air and dryness,
humiditas id est aer, et siccitas id est
which is earth. From these four, two are, as it
terra. Ex his igitur quattuor duo sunt
were, masculine, fire and air, and the other two
quasi masculi, ignis et aer; iterum duo
are feminine, water and earth.
sunt quasi feminae, aqua et terra.
Quattuor igitur elimenta quattuor suas
The four elements have their own
proprias qualitates habent, id est
characteristics: hotness, moistness, coldness,
caliditas, humiditas, frigiditas, siccitas;
and dryness. And each element has two
et unumquodque elimentum habet duas
qualities, one individually and the other from
qualitates, unam propriam, et alteram
another source. From this, it comes about that
aliunde; et inde conficitur ut ex illarum
from the mixing of those [elements] something
mixtura corpus aliquod efficiatur; nihil
is brought about. Nothing from its own
enim ex propriis qualitatibus nascitur
characteristics is born by itself. Therefore, two
per se. Duo igitur agunt ex his et duo
of these are active and two are passive, that is,
patiuntur, id est caliditas et humiditas
hotness and moistness are active, and coldness
agunt, frigiditas et siccitas patiuntur,
and dryness are passive, because all things are
quia ex aqua et terra nascuntur omnia,
born from water and earth, being added to the
additis qualitatibus superiorum. Duo
qualities of the previously mentioned elements.
igitur contraria sunt caliditas et
Therefore, two are contrary, hotness and
frigiditas, et duae in medio positae
coldness, and two are placed in the middle,
humiditas et siccitas.
moistness and dryness.
Ideo dicit consanguineo quia tres
Therefore, he says consanguineo [kindred],
Grates, quas hic appellat Gratia trina,
because the three graces, which he calls Gratia
tres filiae sunt Iunonis. Iuno autem soror
trina, are the three daughters of Juno. Juno is
est Veneris, cuius filius est Himeneus.
the sister of Venus, whose son is Hymen. In the
In gratia ergo trina intellige uocem,
three graces, therefore, you should understand
uultum, gestum. Per uocem
voice, visage, and deed. Through the voice,
pulcritudinem eloquentiae, per uultum
beauty of eloquence [is perceived], through the
similitudinem uniuscuiusque rei, per
face, the likeness of each thing, through deed,
gestum prudentiam uel habitum.
discretion or condition.
Incrementis lustralibus, id est quinque
Incrementis lustralibus [five-fold increases],
annis crescentibus. Lustrum enim dicitur that is, increasing five years. Five-year
quinquennium duobus modis. Quod
purification is said to occur in two ways. With
primo post censum lustrabatur cum
respect to the first, after the census, the city of
cereis urbs Roma, et ille primus census
Rome was purified with candles, and that first
de ferro fiebat; inde post aliud
census was made from iron, thereupon, after
quinquennium de argento; post aliud
another five years, from silver, after another
quinquennium de auro, inde sunt
five years, from gold, thence, there are fifteen-
indictiones. Vel lustrum quinquennium
year spaces. Alternatively, the five-year
88 dicitur quia Sol post bisextum in quinto
purification is called [such] because the Sun,
anno ad initium sui cursus reuertitur, et
after the intercalary day in the fifth year, reverts
tunc lustrat totum signiferum.
to the beginning of its orbit; and, at that point,
purifies the entire zodiac [signiferum].
Decuriatum, honorabilem, id est de
Decuriatum, honorabilem [honored], that is,
curia ductum. Nullus enim iuuenis in
having been led from the senate [de curia].
curia uel in concilio Romanorum, ubi
Indeed, no youth entered into the senate house
curae curabantur, intrabat.
or into the popular assembly of the Romans
where matters of state were managed.
“Nugas” nomen indeclinabile est, et
Nugas [jesting, trifling] is an indeclinable noun
significat leuitatem. In plurali autem
and signifies levity. However, it is declined in
numero declinatur. Inde nugulas,
the plural. Thence, nugulas [jokes, jests] or
ineptias, id est leuitates inutiles.
ineptias [silliness, folly], that is, useless
“Nicto,” uigilo. Nictantis, uigilantis.
Nicto [I blink], I keep watch. Nictantis
[blinking], keeping watch.
“Antistes” autem dicitur quia ante stat,
He is called Antistes [High-priest], because he
id est honorabilior, siue episcopus seu
stands before [ante stat]. That is, [he is] a more
honorable one, either a bishop or layman.
89 ΓYMNOΛOΓOYCEIC, id est
ΓYMNOΛOΓOYCEIC, that is, exercise. A
exercitaris. Gimnasium enim dicitur
gymnasium [i.e., a Greek school] is called the
practice of philosophy.161
Priusquam fores reseraris, id est portas
Priusquam fores reseraris [“Before you open
aperies. Sic agis sicut quidam princeps
the doors”], that is, “You will open the doors.”
qui in cubiculo solus sibi cantat et nec
[Paraphrasing:] “Thus, you act just as a certain
ingredi nec egredi sinit sed solus cantat:
priest who, alone in the inner shrine, sings to
sic tu agis, o mi pater.
himself and neither allows [anyone] to enter nor
to exit unless he alone sings. You are acting like
that, my father.”162
EΓEPIMIΩN genetiuus pluralis est, et
EΓEPIMIΩN is the plural genitive, and it
significat “ascentionum,” quia opus
signifies ascension, because the work signified
quod significatur hoc nomine
by this noun signifies ascension. For example,
ascensionem significat, uerbi gratia,
just as in this place, [it] signifies the ascension
sicut in hoc loco ascensionem
of Philology and all the Muses into heaven.163
Scholars have suggested different emendations of Capella’s neologism,
“ΓYMNOΛOΓOYCEIC.” Danuta Shanzer explains one possible solution by Préaux,
γυµνολογιζεις, in A Philosophical and Literary Commentary on Martianus Capella’s De Nuptiis
Philologiae et Mecurii, 54. A literal translation would run, “to make logoi while naked.”
Here, Eriugena is paraphrasing Capella.
EΓEPIMIΩN is another neologism of Capella. Shanzer explains an emendation by
Grotius, ἐγέρσιµον [from which one wakes] (A Philosophical and Literary Commentary, 55).
90 Philologiae et omnium Musarum in
Praelibante Hymeneo, id est
Praelibante Hymeneo [tasting for Hymen], that
praegustante, hoc est, in initio omnium
is, “tasting in advance.” That is, in the
nuptiarum necesse est ut laus Hymenei
beginning of all weddings, it is necessary that
cantetur, siue ipse fecerit illam laudem
the praise of Hymen be sung, that either [the
groom] himself make that praise or another.
“Scaturrigo” dicitur ubi fons aquae
Scaturrigo [bubbling spring] is said where a
surgit, et componitur ab eo quod est
font of water rises, and it is constructed from
scateo et rigo. Inde nomen dicitur
scateo [I gush forth] and rigo [I moisten].
scaturrigo id est initium.
Thence, the noun form is scaturrigo [i.e.,
scaturigo, bubbling spring], that is, the
Satyra uocatur unaquaque poetria,
Every poetess is called Satyra, playful or
lasciua uel ludicra.
“Percello, perculi:” inde perculerit, id
Percello, perculi [I beat down]: thence,
est percusserit uel nocuerit.
perculerit [he struck down], that is, percusserit
[he beat] or nocuerit [he harmed].
Praeclues. Clyos, gloria: inde praeclues,
Praeclues [famous]: Clyos [κλυτός?] [means]
gloriosi. Cluo uero pugno uel ausculto
glory, thence, praeclues, glorious ones. Cluo
uel defendo significat.
signifies “I fight” or “I heed” or “I defend.”
Cecuta erba est cuius sucus, si in oculos
Cecuta is an herb whose juice, if it is cast in
mittatur, orbantur uisus. Inde cecutio,
eyes, deprives them of sight. Thence, cecutio [I
orbo. Inde “cecutiens,” orbus.
am blind], orbo [I deprive]. Thence, cecutiens
[blinding], orbus [bereft].
Epyca dicuntur omnia carmina ex
Ἐπικά [epics] are all songs composed from all
omnibus pedibus composita propter
[poetic] feet on account of the very excellent
superexcellentia. Epi enim super dicitur,
[e.g., heroes]. Ἐπί [upon] is called “over,”
epicos excelsus: inde epica,
ἐπικός [is called] “elevated;” thence, ἐπικά
superexcellentia. Eadem etiam uocant
[means] very excellent. Indeed, they call the
eroica propter honorem et uirtutem, quia
same [songs] heroic because of honor and
uirorum fortium carmina maxime
strength, because the songs of strong men are
uocantur eroica. Lirica uero carmina
chiefly called eroica. In fact, those lyric poems
dicuntur ea carmina quae cum melodia
[lyrica] are called songs [carmina] sung with
id est cum modulatione canuntur. Aliud
melody, i.e., with modulation [of voice].
est enim carmina tantum uoce cantare,
Another type is singing songs with only the
aliud cum additur sonus cuiusdam
voice, another when the sound of a certain
melodiae, siue lyrae, siue tybiae, siue
melody is added, either by a lyre, or tibia, or by
Ope coniuga. Ops enim dicitur terra, eo
Ope coniuga [Ops, his wife]: Ops is called
quod opem fert, id est fructum.
Earth, because she produces plenty, that is,
KYBIBH, KYBOC, BIOC, firmitas,
Κυβήβη[?], Κύβος, Βίος, firmitas [firmness],
soliditas. BYON etiam dicitur uita. In
soliditas [solidity]. Βίον is called life. In some
quibusdam libris Kybile legitur, quasi
books, Kybile is read as if κύβος λᾶος[?]: solid
cybos leos: solida planicies.
plane [i.e., of a cube].
“Memphis” quaerela interpretatur, et est
Memphis is interpreted as a complaint and is a
palus in Aegypto.
swamp in Egypt.
Mater id est Maia, mater Mercurii: una
Mater: that is, Maia, the mother of Mercury; she
est ex septem stellis quae Plyades
is one of the seven stars called the Pleiades. The
uocantur. Sunt enim septem filiae
seven daughters of Atlas in the tail of [the
Athlantis in cauda Tauri, quae uocantur
constellation] Taurus are called the Pleiades;
Plyades AΠO TOY ΠΛICTOC, hoc est
ἀπὸ τοῦ πλήθους[?], that is, from a plurality.
a pluralitate. Quae etiam alio nomine
Which [i.e., the Pleiades] by another name are
uocantur Vergiliae, eo quod uerno
called Vergiliae, because they rise during
tempore oriuntur. Cum ergo Mercurius
springtime. Therefore, as Mercury yearly roams
in unoquoque anno duodecim signa
the twelve signs, he came to his mother in the
lustrat, cum ueniebat ad matrem suam in
month of May, [and] she urged him to take a
maio mense, cogebat eum uxorem
Palestra dicitur AΠO TOY ΠAΛIN, id
Palestra [Gymnasium] is called ἀπὸ τῆς
est a rustica luctatione.
πάλης[?], that is, from country wrestling.
Celibatum, id est castitatem. Celeps
Celibatum [celibacy, bachelorhood], that is,
enim dicitur caelesti aptus uel caelestem
chastity. An unmarried man is called suitable
uitam ducens. Tribus igitur causis
for heaven or to leading a divine life. Therefore,
Cyllenius cogitur uxorem ducere. Prima
for three reasons the Cyllenian [Mercury] is
causa est quia uidit deos habere uxores
urged to take a wife. The first reason is because
ac filios ac nepotes. Secunda causa est
he saw the gods having wives and sons and
propter suam matrem, quae accusabat
grandsons. The second reason is because his
eum in unoquoque anno. Tertia causa
mother reproached him each year. The third
est, quae est maxima, quia uirilis et
reason, the greatest, is that he seemed to be
pubes et fortis esse uidebatur.
mature and grown-up and strong.
Longae deliberationis, id est qui uxorem Longae deliberationis [of lengthy deliberation],
uult ducere, multas deliberationes, id est
that is, he who wishes to take a wife engages in
uarias cogitationes habet. Ideo Sophian
extensive deliberation, i.e., he entertains a
uoluit Mercurius accipere primum, quia
diversity of thoughts. Therefore, Mercury first
sapientia superat omnia. Sed ideo non
wished to take Wisdom, because wisdom
potuit eam habere propter Palladem,
surpasses all. But he was not able to have her
quia collactanea, id est connutrita ei fuit. because Pallas was her foster-sister, that is, she
94 Sicut enim Minerua inmortalis est, quae
was raised with her. Indeed, just as Minerva is
alio nomine Athena, id est inmortalis
immortal (whose other name is Athena, who is
nuncupatur, sic sapientia. Atque ideo
called immortal) thus was Wisdom. Therefore,
Mercurius, qui est sermo, non potuit
Mercury, who is “word,” was not able to have
eam habere. Sapientia enim sine
her. Wisdom often did good without eloquence
eloquentia sepe profuit, nunquam
[and] never injured; [but] eloquence harmed
nocuit; eloquentia sine sapientia sepe
often without wisdom [and] never did good.
nocuit, nunquam profuit. Minerua quasi
Minerva is just like µή-erua; that is, µή, not
MIN-erua, id est: MI, non; erua,
[and] [en]erua, mortal; that is immortal.
mortalis; id est inmortalis.
Mantiken id est diuinatio. Pronoe,
Mantiken, that is, divination. Pronoe, foresight.
prouidentia. Ideo Mantichen, id est
Therefore, Μαντικήν, that is divination, follows
diuinatio, Solem secuta est, quia sine
the Sun, because without the Sun no divination
Sole nulla diuinatio uel coniectura
or discerning omens [coniectura] is possible.
“Endelechia” uocatur perfecta aetas,
Ἐντελέχεια is called the perfect age, ἡλικία, the
eliche aetas generalis. Ideo autem dicitur general age. The soul is said to be the daughter
95 anima esse filia Solis, quae gr(ece)
of the Sun, which in Greek is called νοῦς,164
uocatur NYC, quia dum anima ad
because, when the soul will have reached the
perfectam aetatem peruenerit endelechia
perfect age, it is called ἐντελέχεια. Therefore,
uocatur. Perfecta igitur anima a claritate
the soul is said to be perfected by the clarity of
Per diadema aeternitas et immortalitas
By diadema [crown] is understood eternity and
Plato calls the Sun the offspring of the Good in Republic 508B-C, and, similarly, in
Pseudo-Dionysius’s On the Divine Names IV:4, the Sun is an image of the Good. As expressed
by Pseudo-Dionysius, all things metaphorically emanate from the Sun and are drawn to it: “For
as the Goodness of the all-transcendent Godhead reaches from the highest and most perfect
forms of being unto the lowest, and still is beyond them all, remaining superior to those above
and retaining those below in its embrace, and so gives light to all things that can receive It, and
creates and vitalizes and maintains and perfects them, and is the Measure of the Universe and its
Eternity, its Numerical Principle, its Order, its Embracing Power, its Cause and its End: even so
this great, all-bright and ever-shining Sun, which is the visible image of the Divine Goodness,
faintly reechoing the activity of the Good, illumines all things that can receive its light while
retaining the utter simplicity of light, and expands above and below throughout the visible world
the beams of its own radiance . . . .” (“Dionysius the Areopagite: On the Divine Names,”
Christian Classics Ethereal Library, accessed 11 March 2014,
Ἐντελέχεια [full, complete reality] is often confused with ἐνδελέχεια [continuity,
persistency]. Eriugena’s use of the word is consistent with Calcidius who, in his commentary on
Timaeus, defines what he calls endelichiam as absolutam perfectionem (CCXXII, ed. J. H.
Waszink, 236, 5-7).
96 Per sotiale uinculum pulcritudinem
Sotiale uinculum [i.e., sociale uinculum,
significat. Tritonia uocatur Minerua a
conjugal chain] signifies beauty. Minerva is
Tritone gigante, quem occidit in palude
called Tritonia from the giant Triton, whom she
Afri. Per “interulam resolutam”
killed in an African swamp. Interulam
uarietates uirtutum significat.
resolutam [undergarment having been loosened]
signifies varieties of mighty works.
Reginioque coco. AΠIPΩ AΓAΘOC,
Reginioque coco. [queenly scarlet]. Ἄπειρος
hoc est ualde bonum. In radice autem
ἀγαθός, that is, greatly good. At the foot of the
Athlantis montis est arbor similitudine
mountain Atlas, there is a tree like a cypress,
cypressi, sed grauissimi odoris, de qua
but of a most heavy odor. From this tree arises
arbore nascitur lana optima, inde autem
high-quality wool; moreover, from [this wool],
reginium id est pretiosissimum
a queenly, i.e., a most costly garment is made.
uestimentum fit. “Strophium,” bis
Strophium [breast-band], twice twisted, that is,
conuersum, id est bifaciem.
Amiculo: amicio, induo, inde amictus et
Amiculo [cloak]: amicio [I clothe], induo [I
amicus. Delius, id est Appollo, dedit
dress], thence, amictus [having been clothed]
animae duas diuinationis species, id est
and amicus [friend]. The Delian, that is, Apollo,
unam naturalem, alteram coniecturalem;
gave to the soul two types of divination: one
et dedit illi peritiam augurii ex
natural and another based on discerning omens
uolucribus et fulgoribus; et dedit scire
[coniecturalem]. He gave to that one [i.e., the
astrologiam per meatus caeli
soul] practical knowledge of augury [drawn]
97 siderumque. Nam tres uirgae sunt: una
from birds and lightning; and he provided
geometrica quae dicitur radius, alia
knowledge of astrology through meatus caeli
astrologiae qua signa monstrantur, tertia
siderumque [the movements of the sky and
prophetica uel coiecturalis. Auspicium
stars]. For there are three branches: one,
dicitur quasi aues aspiciens, hoc est
geometry, which is called the [measuring] rod,
augurium ex auibus. Aruspicium, id est
another [branch of] astrology, by which signs
aram aspiciens, hoc est augurium ex
are revealed, third, prophesy or discerning
omens [i.e., coniecturalis]. Divination
[Auspicium] is called [thus] because of bird
watching [aues aspiciens], this is augury from
birds. Soothsaying [Aruspicium], that is,
examining the altar [aram aspiciens] is augury
from the altars.
“Ania,” intelligentia. NIA enim
Ania, intelligence. Νοῖα indeed [is] intelligence,
intelligentia, ab eo quod est NOYC
from that which is called νοῦς. “A” among the
dicitur. “A” apud Grecos multa
Greeks signifies many things. By turn, it means
significat. Per uices enim negat, per
to negate or to increase just as in this word,
uices implet, sicut in hoc nomine ANIA:
ἄνοια, where it increases the sense.166
Concerning Eriugena’s creative use of Greek, Edouard Jeauneau writes, “Toutefois,
c’est une gageure que de voir en ἄνοια une forme intensive de νοια” “Le commentaire érigénien
sur Martianus Capella (De nuptiis, Lib.I) d’après le manuscrit d’Oxford (Bodl.Libr. Auct.T.2.19,
fol. 1-31),” in Quatre thèmes érigéniens (Montreal: Institut d’études médiévales Albert-le-Grand,
98 ibi enim auget sensum.
Per speculum significatur origo animae,
By speculum [mirror] is signified the origin of
ut sciat qua origine est creata, id est a
the soul, so that it knows from what source it
sapientia ad intelligentiam et postea ad
was created, that is, from wisdom to intelligence
and afterwards to soul.
Lemnius, Vulcanus, a Lemno insula, ubi
Lemnius, Vulcan, derived from the island
intrat uentus cum aqua intus in terram,
Lemno, where wind with water enter into the
et est iuxta Siciliam: ibi enim fingitur
Earth. It is near Sicily, where the forge
officina Vulcani esse. Per “insopibiles
workshop of Vulcan is thought to be. By
ignes,” id est per inextinguibiles ignes,
insopibiles ignes, that is, through
intelligitur inextinguibile ingenium
inextinguishable fire, the inextinguishable
animae. Ingenium enim sedes ignis
nature of the soul is understood. Indeed, [the
soul’s] nature is believed [to be] the seat of fire.
Venus dicitur Afrodite. Afros enim
Venus is called Ἀφροδίτη. Indeed, foam is
uocatur a Grecis spuma. Per dona quae
called ἀφρός by the Greeks. Through the gifts
Venus dedit animae nihil aliud
that Venus gave to the soul, nothing other is
significatur nisi contagiones et
signified except the contaminations and
inlecebrae huius uitae. Per crepitacula
allurements of this life. By rattles, large [i.e.,
maiores sonos significat, sicut lirae,
loud] sounds are signified, just as [the sound of]
timpani et cetera; per tinnitus minores et
a lyre, timpani, etc.; by ringing sounds
99 inferiores sonitus. Omnis uirtus animae
[tinnitus], lesser and lower [volumed] sounds
in ipsa anima est, sine communione
[are signified]. All moral strength [uirtus] of
corporis. Anima uero cum corpore duo
soul is in the soul itself without association with
quaedam habet, et ponuntur in bono et
the body. In fact, the soul has two certain things
in malo: etdune et lupe, edune delectatio
with the body, and they are divided [ponuntur]
uel uoluptas, lupe tristitia.
into good and bad; ἡδονή and λύπη: ἡδονή
[means] delight or pleasure, λύπη [means]
Per ueiculum uelocitas ingenii
Ueiculum [i.e., Vehiculum, vehicle] signifies a
significatur. Abstulit omnem tarditatem
natural swiftness. It removes all slowness from
ab anima. Per “compedes” significatur
the soul. Memory is signified by compedes
memoria quae custodit quaedam ex
[chains], which restrain things from the
animi uelocitate. Sed est uirtus
swiftness of the mind. But moral strength is to
suadendi, uirtus intelligentiae uirtus
be urged—the strength of intelligence, the
strength of the concept of the soul.
Menstrua praecursione. Ideo hoc dicit,
Menstrua praecursione [monthly running
quia Venus elongatur a Sole plus quam
ahead]. [Martianus] says this because Venus is
spatium unius mensis, id est quadraginta
withdrawn from the Sun the space of more than
sex partibus; Mercurius uero elongatur a
one month, that is, 46 degrees. Mercury is
Sole uiginti duabus. Mercurius igitur,
withdrawn from the Sun 22 [degrees].
qui nunquam separatur a Sole plus quam Therefore, Mercury, which is never separated
100 uiginti duabus partibus, non debuerat
from the Sun more than 22 degrees, had not
sine suo fratre aliquod consilium agere.
been duty bound to deliver any advice without
Ideo autem dicit “praemittentem,” id est
his brother [i.e., Apollo]. Therefore, he says
praecurrentem, non quia ante Solem
praemittentem [sending ahead], that is, running
currit, sed etiam subsequitur. Duo ex
ahead, not because [Mercury] runs before the
illis recto cursu currunt et non fiunt
Sun [only]—he actually pursues [the Sun as
retrograda, id est Sol et Luna. Quinque
well]. Two of these travel by a right course and
autem non solum antecedunt Solem, sed
do not retrograde, that is, the Sun and Moon.
etiam subsequuntur, sicut Saturnus,
Moreover, five planets not only precede the
Iouis, Mars. Venus uero et Mercurius
Sun, but follow [in retrograde motion also], just
non ambiunt terram sicut tres planetae
as [with] Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars. Venus and
qua sunt supra Solem, sed circa Solem
Mercury do not orbit [ambiunt] the Earth, like
the three planets that are above the Sun, but
have orbits around the Sun.
Volatilem uirgam. Virgam Mercurii
Volatilem uirgam [flying staff]. He says the
dicit, quae uocatur caducium: facit enim
staff of Mercury, which is called the caduceus,
homines cadere et resurgere. Sermo
makes men die and resurrect. Indeed, the word
enim rethoris per uices grauat, per uices
of an orator by turns oppresses, by turns
Talaria uero dicta sunt a talo, eo quod
Talaria [Mercury’s winged sandals] are so
circa talos fit axis cum pennis; et per
named from “ankle” [talo], because the axis
101 haec omnia significatur uelocitas
around the ankles is made with wings. All these
things signify the speed of the word.
Nunc in fanis: hoc dicit de anthro
Nunc in fanis: he says this concerning the cave
Sibyllae. Quae Sibylla uocatur Erithrea.
of the Erythraean sibyl. A sibyl is called σιός
Sibylla autem dicitur sithos – bole, hoc
βουλή, that is, divine counsel.
est consilium diuinum.
Fisiculatis prosicis, id est uitalibus
Fisiculatis prosicis [cutting of entrails], that is,
asumptis. Proseco enim dicitur accipio.
taking the vitals. “Cut off” [proseco] is said for
Fysis uero de natura, de fluxu aquarum,
“accept” [accipio]. Φύσις [origin or one’s
de uitalibus partibus, sicut in hoc loco.
nature] concerns nature, concerns the flow of
Hae sunt uitales partes: cor, iecur, epar,
waters, concerns the vital parts, just as in this
ilia, cerebrum et cetera. Ilia autem
place. These are the vital parts: the heart, liver
dicuntur omnia interanea.
[i.e., jecur, seat of the soul/affections], liver
[i.e., hepar], intestines, brain, etc. Moreover, all
the entrails [omnia interanea] are called
Aditorum fastigiis, id est culminibus
Aditorum fastigiis [of the approaches to the
generaliter templorum. Quia Delio
pediments], that is, generally, to the peaks of
officia faciebant per sex menses in Delo
temples. Services were made to the Delian [i.e.,
insula. Iterum autem per alios sex
Apollo] for six months on the island of Delos,
102 menses in Aelicona.
for another six months on Helicon.
Vittisque semiuulsis. Vittas posuit pro
Vittisque semiuulsis [half-torn ribbon]. He
omni sacerdotali habitu.
specified ribbons for all priestly dress.
Et oscinum. Oscinum dicitur quicquid
Et oscinum [divining-bird]. It is said of
ore cantat. Oscen enim dicitur quasi ore
divining-birds [oscinum] [that they] sing
canens. Hic tamen de uolatilibus
anything with the mouth. Indeed, a divining-
bird is mentioned as if singing by the mouth.
Yet this is understood concerning flying
Augur pithius. In PEPLO
Augur pithius [Pythian diviner]. In “The Robe
THEOFRASTI legitur quendam
[i.e., πέπλος] of Theophrastus,” we read that
serpentem prophetasse in Delo insula.
some kind of serpent was prophesying on the
Quem occidit Appollo, et inde cepit
island of Delos. Apollo killed it, and, from then
postea prophetare, ideoque Augur
on, he began [i.e., incepit] to prophesy.
pithius uocatus est.
Therefore, he is called the Pythian diviner.167
Item eum in Elicona. Elicon enim
Item eum in Elicona [Likewise, him in Helicon].
uocatur Appollo, quia trahebat omnes
Apollo is called Helicon because he drew all
Concerning this intriguing reference to the “πέπλος of Theophrastus,” see Lutz,
Iohannis Scotti Annotationes in Marcianum, 227-28.
103 homines ad se: elico enim tractus
men to himself; indeed, elico [i.e., elicio, call
dicitur. Delon, eo quod clara responsa
forth] is said [for] “drawing out” [tractus]. [He
dabat. Licium, id est, licos dicitur lupus,
is called the] Delian, therefore, because he gave
Lycius Appollo ab expulsione luporum,
famous answers. [He is called the] Lycian, that
uel eo quod homines in lupos conuertit:
is, λύκος, which is called wolf [lupus]. [He is
inde lupercal suum templum dicitur. Vel
called] Lycian Apollo after the expulsion of the
ex eo Licius quia, sicut lupus deuorat
wolves, or because he converts men into
peccora, sic Sol consumit omnes
wolves. Therefore, his temple is called
Lupercal. Or [he is said to be] from Lycia
because, just as a wolf devours cattle, thus the
Sun consumes all liquid.
Crepidas myrcidas, id est fundamenta
Crepidas myrcidas [myrtle sandals], that is,
myrtea: mirce enim dicitur mirtus.
myrtle bottoms: mirce is indeed called myrtle.
Presagiorum: presagia duobus modis
Presagiorum: prophesies [praesagia] are named
dicuntur, aut in prophetia aut in
in two ways, either in prediction [prophetia] or
divining omens [coniectura].
Parnasia rupes. Parnasus mons duo
Parnasia rupes [Parnassian rock]. Mount
cornua habet, id est Cheteron et
Parnassus has two peaks, that is, Cheteron and
Lychera: Bachus adoratur in uno,
Lychera: Bacchus is worshipped on one, Apollo
Appollo in altero.
on the other.
104 Chirreos recessus. Chirrus est mons
Chirreos recessus [Cirrhaean retreat]. Chirrus is
Indiae in quo fanum et specus
a mountain of India on which were the temple
and grotto of Apollo.
Alii transacti cursus: de illis dicit qui
Alii transacti cursus [Some, their course
iam recesserunt aut de his qui in presenti completed]: he says this concerning those who
sunt. Aliae adueniebant, id est de his
now have withdrawn or concerning these who
quae nascuntur. Vt uelut fumidae: de his
are in the present. Aliae adueniebant [Others
dicit qui cito nascuntur et cito
who arrived]: that is, concerning those being
moriuntur. “Fortuna” enim dicitur
born. He says Vt uelut fumidae [So that as if a
smoke] concerning those who are born quickly
and quickly die. Fortuna is said to be a
sequence of causes.
Crepitabat appulsu. Crepo, sono.
Crepitabat appulsu [Rustled by the impact].
Musica enim duobus modis efficitur, aut
Resound [crepo], sound [sono]. Music is
appulsu aut sufflatione: appulsu in
brought about in two ways, either by impact or
cordis et in aliis, flatus autem in tibiis et
blowing: by impact upon strings and on other
in aliis quae fiunt flatu.
things, blowing on flutes [tibiis] and on other
things that are made for blowing.
Acuto sonitu. Queritur cur Martianus
Acuto sonitu [sharp sound, i.e., a high pitch].
acutum sonum dicit esse in summitate
One asks why Martianus says a high sound is in
105 arborum, id est in celesti musica, ut
the summit of the trees, that is, music in heaven,
acuitas sit in Saturno et grauitas in Luna. and that the highest should be in Saturn and the
Ideo hoc dicit quia quicquid terrae
lowest in the moon. He says this because
adheret grauius sonat, quicquid autem in
whatever clings to the earth sounds lower, but
puriori loco currit acutius sonat. In omni
whatever runs in an open place sounds higher.
musica quae cordis efficitur, tetracorda
In all music that is made on strings, fourths and
uel quina fiunt. Primum tetracordon
fifths arise. The first tetrachord is called
uocatur principalis principalium,
principalis principalium, the second [tetrachord
secundum subprincipalis principalium,
is called] subprincipalis principalium, the third,
tertium mediarum, quartum
mediarum, the fourth, disiunctarum, the fifth,
disiunctarum, quintum hyperboleon id
hyperboleon, that is, excellentium. Therefore, in
est excellentium. In primo ergo
the first tetrachord the lowest voice is made, but
tetracordon grauitas uocum fit, in ultimo
in the last [tetrachord] is the highest, and
autem acuitas, et quicquid in medio
whatever is in the middle is some kind of
mixtura quaedam est inter grauitatem et
mixture between low and high. Therefore, he
acutum. Inde dicit in sequentibus: media
says in the following, media ratis [middle of the
ratis, id est media arboris.
raft] that is, in the middle of the tree.
Succinentibus duplis, id est tonis ut in
Succinentibus duplis [Singing at the octave],
pedibus, in iambo duplum, id est duo ad
that is, by tones as in [metrical] feet, [e.g.,] in a
unum. Ac sesqualteris, ut in bachio, id
double iamb, that is, two to one. Ac sesqualteris
est tria ad duo. Necnon sesquiterciis, ut
[and at the sesquialtera], as in the bacchius, that
in epitritis, ut sunt quattuor ad tria.
is, three to two. Necnon sesquiterciis [And also
106 Octauis etiam, id est epigdois. Primum
the sesquitertia], as in the epitrite, as there are
igitur genus uocatur diapason, id est ex
four to three. Octauis etiam [Likewise, the
duplis constitutum, ut unum ad duo.
octave], that is, the epigdois. Therefore, the first
Secundum genus uocatur diapente, id est kind is called diapason [octave], that is,
sesqualtera, ut tria ad duo: habent enim
constructed from a duplum, as one to two. The
tres duo in se et dimidiam partem
second kind is called diapente [fifth], that is, the
duorum. Tertium genus uocatur
sesquialtera, as three to two: they have three
diatessaron, ut sunt quattuor ad tria:
two in themselves and a half part of two. The
habent enim quattuor tres in se et
third kind is called diatessaron [fourth], as there
tertiam partem trium. Quartum uero
are four to three: they have four three in
uocatur epogdoos, id est superoctauus,
themselves and a third part of three. The fourth
ut nouem ad octo: habent enim nouem
is called epogdoos, that is, superoctauus, as
octonarium in se et octauam partem
nine to eight: they have nine eight in themselves
octonarii. De quibus omnibus hic non
and an eighth part of an octave. Concerning all
est laborandum quia in sequentibus
these things, we need not labor, because, in the
quod latitat declaretur.
following, what is hidden is made plain.
Lymmata, id est emitonia. Hoc dicit quia Lymmata, that is, a semitone [emitonia]. He
a Sole usque ad Lunam quidam tonos
says this, because some say the tones from the
integros dicunt. Iterum a Sole usque ad
Sun to the Moon are whole [tonos integros].
Saturnum toni etiam integri dicuntur.
Again, the tones from the Sun to Saturn are said
Inde conficitur ut Sol mise, id est
to be whole. Thence, it turns out that the Sun is
medium locum teneat. Quantum enim
the mese, that is, it keeps a middle place [locum,
107 spatii a Sole ad Lunam, tantum a Sole
i.e., orbit]. Indeed, the space from the Sun to the
ad Saturnum habetur. Quidam autem
Moon is as much [as] the Sun is said to be to
mittunt limmata, id est emitonia, uerbi
Saturn. Moreover, certain ones disregard
gratia, a Luna ad Mercurium emitonium, limmata, that is, the semitone. For example,
et sic in ceteris. Inde dicit in
from the Moon to Mercury is a semitone, and
sequentibus: parili ratione, id est tonis
thus in the others. Thence, [Capella] says in the
integris. Aut succentibus conuenire, hoc
following section [i.e., Section 12], parili
est, quasi succinentibus.
ratione [by like reasoning], that is, entire tones.
Aut succentibus conuenire, this is, as if singing
Limmata, emitonia. Intromittuntur ut
Limmata, semitone. They allow that not only
non solum integri toni sint in musica
whole tones are in the celestial music, but
caelesti, sed etiam intersunt emitonia.
semitones are also present.
“Armonia” autem dicitur ab eo quod est
Harmony [armonia] is named after that which is
monos, et ar ponitur pro ad, quasi
one [monos]. “Ar” is placed for “ad” just as
with adunatio [union].
Superum carmen, id est diuinum
Superum carmen, that is, a divine song or a
carmen, uel carmen superorum, id est
song of the gods, that is, of the deities.
108 Saturnus igitur ad Solem dupla,
So, from Saturn to the Sun is a duplum, that is
diapason scilicet. Iterum, Sol ad Lunam
to say, a diapason [i.e., octave]. Again, from the
diapason, id est dupla. Saturnus autem
Sun to the Moon is a diapason; that is, a
ad Lunam bis diapason, id est bis dupla
duplum. Moreover, from Saturn to the Moon is
fit, sicut VIII ad IIIIor dupla. Octo
a double diapason, that is, two octaves [dupla]
iterum bis diapason caelestis armoniae
are made, just as four doubled makes eight. The
plenitudo est a terra ad sidera. Sunt enim fullness of the celestial harmony from Earth to
octo soni, septem spatia, sex toni.
the stars is eight [pitches, but on the other hand
it is the span of] a double diapason. Indeed, [in
an octave] there are eight pitches [soni], seven
intervals, six whole tones [toni].
Primus sonus Lunae, et deinde sursum
The first sound is the Moon’s, and then up
uersus singularum planetarum soni
towards each of the planets all the way to the
usque ad Solem, et iterum usque ad
Sun, and again all the way to the Firmament
spheram. Spherae autem celestis
[spheram]. The sound of the celestial sphere is
acutissimus sonus est. Sed in his
the highest pitch. But, in all these sounds, a
omnibus sonis, bis diapason computatur, double octave is calculated, which is displayed
quae in quadrupli proportione
in a four-fold proportion. Moreover, in all these,
proponitur. Sed in his omnibus non
one considers not the place of position but the
locorum positio sed uocum proportio
proportionate [relationship] of the voices. For
consideratur. Nam grauissimus omnium
the lowest of all sounds is of Saturn, because it
sonus Saturni quoniam tardissime
moves the slowest. Moreover, the highest of all
109 mouetur. Acutissimus autem omnium
sounds is the celestial sphere, which whirls with
sonus spherae caelestis, quae nimia
an excessive speed. Between those two sounds,
caeleritate conuoluitur. Inter hos duos
a double diapason is placed, whose middle
sonos bis diapason componitur, quarum
voice has been placed in the Sun, having a
media uox in Sole constituta medietatem certain intermediate course between the lowness
quandam habet inter grauitatem Saturni
of Saturn and the highness of the Firmament.
et acumen sperae. Sed iterum inter
Again, between the lowness of Saturn and the
grauitatem Saturni et medietatem Solis
middle course of the Sun an octave is placed.
diapason componitur. Omnis autem
Moreover, each octave is constructed from a
diapason ex diatessaron et diapente
fourth [diatessaron] and fifth [diapente] and
componitur, et sex tonos comprehendit.
includes six tones. Another octave [is] between
Alia diapason inter sonum Saturni et
the sound of Saturn and the sound of the Sphere
sonum spherae. Proinde necesse est ut
[i.e., between the Sun and the Sphere]. Hence, it
ex planetis quae subtus Solem sunt et
is necessitated by reason that sounds are
supra soni interponantur in hac duplici
introduced from the planets which are below the
diapason ratione. Post sonum Saturni
Sun and [those] above in this double octave.
usque ad sonum Solis componitur
After the sound of Saturn all the way to the
diapason tali modo: tonus, tonus,
sound of the Sun an octave is placed is this way:
emitonium, tonus, tonus, emitonium,
tone, tone, semitone, tone, tone, semitone, tone.
tonus. Vbi octo sunt soni, necesse est ut
Where there are eight sounds, it is necessary
septem spatia sint et sex toni, id est,
that there be seven spaces and six whole tones,
quinque integri et unus compositus ex
that is, five whole and one constructed from two
Temperabat. In aliis libris habetur:
Temperabat [it is combined]. In other books, it
temperabatur. Sed melius temperabat,
is said to be temperabatur [it was being
quia Sol omnes circulos planetarum
combined]. But temperabat is better, because
temperat aut frigore, aut calore, aut
the Sun tempers all the orbits of the planets,
etiam medietate quadam temperali ut in
either by means of cold or heat, or even by a
circulo Iouis. Circulus Solis a nullo
certain intermediate temperateness, as in the
circulorum planetarum temperatur, sed
orbit of Jupiter. The orbit of the Sun is not
temperat, ut diximus. Verbi gratia: in
tempered by the orbits of the other planets, but
Saturno circulo frigiditas regnat propter
[itself] tempers, as we have said. For example,
absentiam Solis, in Ioui temperantia
in the orbit of Saturn, coldness reigns, because
propter eundem Solem, quia propinquior of the absence of the Sun. In Jupiter,
est Soli et est inter Martem qui est
temperateness [reigns], because of the same
feruens et Saturnum qui est frigidus,
Sun, because it is nearer the Sun and is between
sicque in ceteris intelligendum est.
Mars, which is boiling hot [feruens], and
Saturn, which is cold. And, thus, in the rest it is
to be understood.
Ambiebant, circulabant. Modo dicit de
Ambiebant [they went round], they encircled
circulis planetarum. Qui circuli alios
[circulabant]. In this manner, he speaks
circulos aliarum planetarum intra se
concerning the orbits of the planets. Which
habent, uerbi gratia, circulus Saturni in
orbits have the orbits of other planets within
111 se habet sex circulos aliarum
themselves; for example, the orbit of Saturn has
planetarum, et sic de ceteris circulis
within itself the orbits of six other planets, and
thus it is to be understood concerning the other
Inmensis finibus: propter inmensitatem
Inmensis finibus [With immeasurable
dicit. Propter hoc dicit quia MARCUS
boundaries]: [Capella] says this because of
TVLLIVS in Somnio Scipionis dicit
[their, i.e., the planetary orbits’] immensity. He
quod omnes animae descendunt de
says this, because Marcus Tullius [Cicero], in
caelo, et unaquaque anima habet suam
The Dream of Scipio, says that all souls descend
fortunam, et in illo loco discendunt ubi
from Heaven, and every single soul has its own
signum Leonis est. Primo enim
fate, and they descend at the constellation Leo
descendunt in circulum Saturni, et hoc
[ubi signum Leonis est].168 First, they descend
est primum malum propter frigiditatem
into the orbit of Saturn, and this is the first
terrae. Deinde in circulum Iouis: ibi
misfortune, because of the coldness of the
temperiem quandam accipiunt propter
region [terrae]. Then, in the orbit of Jupiter,
Cf., Cicero, Somnium Scipionis, §7: “For men were created subject to this law, to keep
to that globe, which you see in the centre of this region and which is called the Earth; and to
them a soul was given formed from those everlasting fires, which you mortals call constellations
and stars, that, round and spherical in form, alive with divine intelligences, complete their orbits
and circles with marvelous swiftness. So, my Publius, you and all good men must allow the soul
to remain in the keeping of the body, nor without his command, by whom it was given to you,
must you leave your human life, lest you should appear to have deserted the post assigned to men
by God.” The Dream of Scipio, trans. W. D. Pearman (Cambridge: Deighton, Bell, and Co.,
112 temperantiam, quia Iouis dicitur
they receive a certain tempering because of
salutaris in omnia. Inde ad Martem: ibi
moderation, because Jupiter is said to be the
etiam accipiunt quasi malum propter
salvation of all. Then, [they descend] to Mars;
furorem et maximum calorem eius. Inde
there they receive, as it were, evil, because of its
ad Solem: ibi quaedam requies fit
fury and extreme heat. Then, to the Sun; there is
propter ingenium; est enim Sol quasi
a certain rest, because of [its] nature. Indeed, the
Sun is just as the World Soul [anima mundi].
Peruadens singulas quasque. Hic enim
Peruadens singulas quasque. He says this
dicit de generalibus fortunis: generaliter
concerning general fortunes; indeed, they
enim primo descendebant in flumine, et
generally first descended as a stream and then
inde ui separabantur.
were divided according to [individual] strength.
Decliuis aluei, quasi ad uallem
Decliuis aluei [Slope of a trench], as if
descendentes. Omnes animae
descending to a valley. All rational souls, as
rationabiles, quantum ad Deum
long as they reach and strain after God, are
pertinent et ad Deum intendunt, sine
without infection. When they descend to lower
contagione sunt. Quando uero ad
places and desire bodies or sticking to bodies,
inferiora descendunt et corpora uel
they are weighed down, having assumed vices
corporibus adhaerentia diligunt, uitiis ex
from fleshly nature. Likewise, when they are
natura corporum assumptis adgrauantur.
condemned, they return into heaven, as if
Et iterum, cum damnantur, redeunt in
having been led by penitence, and through the
caelum quasi penitentia ducti et per
same orbits of the planets they ascend, finding
113 eosdem circulos planetarum ascendunt,
good and evil, just as they found when they
et ibi bona et mala inueniunt sicuti cum
descended. In the end, they return as if from
descendentes inuenerunt, et postea quasi
prison and turn [uertuntur] among the stars or
ex carcere redeunt et uertuntur in stellas,
remain in the lower region.
aut etiam in inferno remanent.
Ambiebant igitur. Ideo hoc dicit quia
Ambiebant [they were circling]. He said this
nihil mali faciebant. Per istas enim
because they did nothing wrong. Indeed,
omnium mixturas nil aliud intelligitur
through those mixtures of all things, nothing
nisi felicitas aut miseria animarum. Non
other is understood except the happiness or
solum enim hoc inuenitur inter fortunas,
misery of souls. In fact, not only is this found
sed etiam in unoquoque homine potest
among the destinies [of nations], but it can also
intelligi. Non enim semper mens
be understood for each individual. For the mind
uniuscuiusque hominis in eodem statu
is not always established similarly in each
est, sed per uices sic, per uices etiam sic: person, but it changes in response to various
aliquando enim bona cogitat et ibi si
situations [per uices sic, per uices etiam sic].
perseueraberit felix erit, aliquando mala
Sometimes, it thinks good things and will be
et in illis si perseuerauerit mergetur et
happy, if it will have persisted there.
non ad ripam perueniet. Hinc dicit
Sometimes, [it thinks] evil and, if it persists, it
PLATO: Omnes animae aut redeunt in
will be plunged in those places and will not
stellas, aut in homines, uel caballos, uel
reach the bank. Hence, Plato says, “All souls
in quamquunque aliam similitudinem.
either return to the stars, or into men, or horses,
GREGORIVS NYSEVS, germanus
or into whatever other likeness [sic,
114 BASILII, ait quia iuuenis quidam
quamquunque aliam similitudinem].”169
dicebat se esse aliquando sicut uir,
Gregory of Nyssa, brother of Basil, said that a
aliquando sicut femina, uel etiam sicut
certain youth claimed [in other lives] to have
uolatile, uel sicut piscis, uel sicut rana.
been a man, a female, a flying beast, a fish, and
Ideo dicit hoc propter nimiam miseriam
a frog. He says this because of the exceeding
misery of souls.
DE ARMONIA CAELESTIUM
On the Harmony of Heavenly Movements and
MOTUUM SIDERUMQUE SONIS
the Sounds of the Stars
Octo sunt soni, planetarum uidelicet VII
There are eight pitches [soni], seven of the
et spherae unus. Quorum grauissimus
planets and one of the sphere. Of these, the
Saturni est, acutissimus uero spericus.
lowest [pitch] is Saturn, the highest is of the
Proinde spherae sonus sono Saturni
sphere. Hence, the pitch of the sphere concords
ratione quadrupli consonat, ac bis
with the pitch of Saturn by a fourfold ratio, and
diapason efficiunt, ut in organo uel
they produce a double octave, as on an organ or
fidibus principalis principalium et
stringed instruments [the concord of] principalis
ultima excellentium. Sonus uero Solis
principalium and ultima excellentium [is
est inter Saturnum et spheram sicut
produced].170 In fact, the pitch of the Sun is
MECH inter duas praedictas cordas:
between Saturn and the sphere, just like the
Paraphrasing Calcidius 42A-D.
This is not two octaves; Eriugena should have mentioned adquisitus for principalis
115 superat enim Saturnum duplo eique
µέση [i.e., mese] between the previously
consonat diapason, superatur autem a
mentioned strings: indeed, it surpasses Saturn
sphera duplo et aliam diapason
twice and concords with it at an octave.
componunt. Vbi mirabilis naturae uirtus
Moreover, it [i.e., the Sun] is surpassed twice by
admiranda est. Nam quod in tetrachordis the sphere and they make a second octave.
quinis conficitur, hoc in octo sonis
Whereby, the power of miraculous nature is to
caelestibus completur. Sed qua ratione
be admired: For what is accomplished in five
peragitur, diligenti indagatione
tetrachords is completed with the eight pitches
of the heavens. But the plan by which [qua
ratione] this is accomplished must be studied
with diligent investigation.
Primo igitur intellige tres planetas quae
First, understand that the three planets placed
supra Solem locorum situ sunt
above the sun are the lower sounds. And, it is
grauiorum sonituum esse. Nec immerito, not without cause, for they are impeded from
quoniam et in amplioribus mundi spatiis
having such a [high] speed, because they both
mouentur et nimia caeleritate spherae,
move in longer orbits through the heavens
cui contrarium cursum peragunt, ne
[amplioribus mundi spatiis] and [because of]
tantae uelocitatis sint, impediuntur.
the excessive speed of the sphere, [in relation
Quae autem sub Sole localiter, quoniam
to] which they complete an opposite course.
et longius a spherica uelocitate distant et
Moreover, [the planets] located under the sun
in breuioribus mundi spatiis discurrunt,
stretch toward the higher sounds, because they
acutiores sonos extendunt. Ac per hoc,
are both farther from the speed of the sphere
116 non locorum positio sed proportionis
and run in shorter orbits in the heavens. And,
sonorum ratio caelestem efficit
through this, not the positioning of the planets,
armoniam, presertim cum non sinat ratio but the proportional ratio of the pitches
sursum et deorsum localiter in uniuerso.
produces the heavenly harmony, particularly
In qualitate uero sonorum grauitas et
since this ratio does not depend upon the
acumen mediaeque uarietates
position ascending and descending in the
succinentes diuersas efficiunt
cosmos. Indeed, in the quality of the sounds,
lowness, highness and middle variants produce
different accompanying consonances
Fiat igitur diatonicum genus pro
Let the diatonic genus be an example. The Sun
exemplo. Sol ad Saturnum diapason
and Saturn render an octave [diapason] in a
dupla ratione, sphera ad Solem similiter
duple ratio, and, similarly, the sphere and the
diapason alteram reddit, ac per hoc,
Sun a second octave; through this, the sphere
sphera Saturno in quadrupli ratione
[and] Saturn resound in the fourfold ratio of a
consonat bis diapason. Et notandum
double octave. And, it should be noted, that
quod omnis diapason octo sonis, septem
every octave consists of eight pitches, seven
spatiis, sex tonis consistat. Est ergo
steps, and six whole tones. Therefore, Saturn is
primus in grauioribus Saturnus, cui
first in the lower sounds, to which the closest
proximus Iouis tono coniungitur, Ioui
[planet], Jupiter, is joined by a whole tone,
similiter Mars tono, Sol Marti hemitonio similarly, Mars to Jupiter by a tone, the Sun to
et diatessaron in sesquitercia
Mars by semitone, and the Sun to Saturn
proportione Sol ad Saturnum consistat.
consists of a fourth, in the proportion of 4:3
117 In eisdem quoque sonis Sol ad Saturnum [sesquitercia]. Likewise, in these same sounds
sesqualteram consonat simphoniam sic:
[sonis] of Sun and Saturn resounds a
a Saturno ad Iouem tonus, ab Ioue ad
harmonious 3:2 [sesqualteram, i.e., a fifth].
Martem tonus, a Marte ad Solem tonus,
Thus, from Saturn to Jupiter a tone, from Jupiter
et habes diapente simul et diatessaron
to Mars a tone, from Mars to the Sun a tone, and
inter Solem et Saturnum. Et ne mireris
you have a fifth and a fourth simultaneously
Solem caeteris planetis multiplici
between the Sun and Saturn. And do not marvel
proportione conuenire. Diximus enim
that the Sun joins the other planets in numerous
eum tribus modis concinere Saturno, in
ratios. For, we have said, it resounds
dupla uidelicet et sesquitercia et
[concinere] with Saturn in three ways: by
sesqualtera copulatione. Cum uideas
joining in a [ratio of] 2:1, 4:3, and 3:2. Since
non eisdem interuallis semper soni
you see [that they do] not always approach
appropinquare sed secundum absidarum
[each other] by the same intervals of sound but
altitudinem, quid ergo mirum si Sol
according to the heights of their arcs
Saturno diapason in duplo concinat dum
[absidarum], why is it remarkable if the Sun
in longissimis ab eo distantiis currit; ubi
resounds in a duple [ratio, i.e., at an] octave
uero ceperit ei appropinquare, diapente
with Saturn, while it revolves in the farthest
in sesqualtera; at si ei proxime
distance from it [i.e., the Sun]? Truly, when it
accesserit, diatessaron in sesquitercia
[i.e., Saturn] begins to approach it [i.e., the
Sun], it will resound [sonabit] [in the ratio of]
3:2, in a fifth. But if it [i.e., Saturn] has
approached closest to it [i.e., the Sun], it will
resound [in the ratio of] 4:3, in a fourth.
118 Hac autem ratione considerata, non te
Having considered this account [ratione], what
mouebit, ut opinor, quod diximus etiam
we have said concerning Mars, [that] it
de Marte, tono uidelicet aliquotiens a
evidently stands a tone from the Sun sometimes,
Sole distare, aliquotiens emitonio. Quod
sometimes a semitone, will not bother you, I
enim ualet in cordis extentio et remissio,
think. For what prevails by the tension and
longitudo et breuitas, sicut in fistulis
release of strings is similar to the length and
organi, in quibus spatia longitudinis
width of organ pipes, in which the intervals of
uocum facit distantiam, hoc idem in
length make the difference in pitches [vocum].
planetis absidarum altitudo et a Sole
Likewise, this [is accomplished] in the planets
elongantia aut ei propinquitas. Et quod
by the height of their arcs and [their] departures
de Sole diximus, hoc ipsum de omnibus
from or nearness to the Sun. And, what we said
planetis inter se inuicem intelligendum
concerning the Sun, the same must be
est. Non enim eisdem interuallis semper
understood concerning all the planets among
aut a se inuicem distant aut sibi inuicem
themselves alternately. For [they are] not
appropinquant pro conditione
always at the same distances; [they are] either
absidarum, ac per hoc, in octo
standing apart from each other by turns or are
caelestibus sonis omnes musicas
by turns approaching each other, because of the
consonantias fieri posse credendum est,
nature of their arcs. And, through this, it should
non tantum per tria genera, diatonicum,
be believed that in the eight sounds of the
dico, chrommaticum, enarmonicum,
heavens all possible musical consonances can
uerum etiam in aliis ultra omnium
be made—not only through the three genera, I
mortalium ratiocinationem. Supra uero
mean the diatonic, chromatic, and enharmonic,
Solem altitudinem acuminum, infra uero
but, likewise, even in others [i.e., other genera],
119 positionem locorum ut sensibus
which are beyond all mortal reasoning. The
mortalium uidetur, ita diapason potest
high register of the high pitches [altitudinem
inueniri. Sol ad spheram diapason
acuminum] is above the Sun, below the position
coiungit, et primo habet diatessaron ad
of places as it appears to mortal senses; thus, the
Lunam, et primum ei Venus tono
octave can be found. An octave joins the Sun
consonat, Veneri Mercurius tono altero,
and the Sphere, and at first it [i.e., the Sun] has
Luna Mercurio hemitonio. Diapente
a fourth to the Moon, and Venus resounds with
uero in eisdem spatiis consonat, dum
it [i.e., the Sun] with a whole tone [tonus],
Venus Soli tono, Mercurius Veneri tono, Mercury with Venus with a second whole tone,
Luna Mercurio emitonio, spera Lunae
the Moon with Mercury with a half tone.
However, in these same distances, a fifth
resounds when Venus corresponds
[respondeant] to the Sun by a tone, Mercury to
Venus by a tone, the Moon to Mercury by a half
tone, the Sphere to the Moon with a tone.
Et notandum quod illi toni qui a terra
And it should be noted that these tones [toni],
computantur ad spheram, uerbi gratia, a
which are calculated from the Earth to the
terra ad Lunam tonus, non sint in
Sphere, e.g., the tone [tonus] from Earth to the
proportionibus uocum, sed in interuallis
Moon, may not be in the ratios of the pitches [in
locorum. Tonorum enim multae species
proportionibus uocum], but in the distances of
sunt. Siquidem toni sunt interualla
their positions. For there are many kinds of
siderum, hoc est, quantum distat
tones. Accordingly, tones [tonorum] are
120 unumquodque ab alio quantumque Luna
distances between the stars, i.e., how far each
elongatur a terra: qui toni pro diuersitate
[planet] is apart from another and how far the
absidarum et circulorum uariantur.
Moon is removed from the Earth. [These] tones
Quam speciem tonorum MARTIANVS
[tonorum] vary according to the diversities of
diffinit dicens: “Tonus est spatium cum
[the planets’] arcs and orbits. It is this kind of
legitima quantitate.” Quae species in
tone [tonorum] that Martianus defines saying:
musica diastema uocatur. Sunt toni
“A tone [tonus] is a distance with a measure,
temporum, in longitudine et breuitate
determined by rule.” This kind [of tone] is
constituti. Sunt toni spirituum in
called “interval” [diastema] in music.
spisitudine et exilitate uocum. Sunt toni
[Alternately,] there are tones of time [toni
armonici, de quibus nunc agitur, in
temporum], arranged in long or short duration.
grauitate et altitudine sonorum, ex
There are tones of breath [toni spirituum],
quibus omnis proportionalitas
defined in density or sparseness of sounds
simfoniarum constituitur. Itaque,
[uocum]. [And] there are tones of harmonies
quemadmodum in organo non
[toni armonici], which are now under discussion
consideratur in quo loco sit fistula, sed
[de quibus nunc agitur], defined in lowness and
qualis uox ipsius est, et quot et quibus
highness of sounds, of which each proportion of
coniungitur et quales proportiones efficit consonances [omnis proportionalitas
– unaqueque fistula diuersis copulata
simfoniarum] is composed. And so, just as on
diuersas efficit simfonias – sic non locus an organ it does not matter [non consideratur]
siderum sed sonus caelestem componit
where a pipe is placed but what sort of voice
armoniam. Quod uerum moueantur
[vox] it is, as well as how many and which
uoces siderum iuxta spatia absidarum,
[other pipes] it is joined and which ratios it
121 nec mirum cum et colores eadem causa
makes – every pipe makes different harmonies
mutent et cordam in breuiori et in
joining with diverse [other pipes] – so it is not
longiori spatio positam aut extentam et
the place of the stars but the sound [sonus] that
remissam, cum sit eadem, non eandem
composes heavenly harmony. Because the
uocem reddere uidemus.
pitches [uoces] of the stars [i.e., the planets] are
moved [according to] the lengths of their arcs, it
is not a marvel that their colors change for the
same reason and that a string placed over a
shorter or longer distance, either stretched or
relaxed, seems to bring forth a different pitch
Tonus autem ex tendendo dicitur, et est
Tonus is said [to derive] from tendendo; it is
grecum, et diriuatur a uerbo TEINΩ, hoc Greek, and it is derived from the verb τείνω,
est extendo. Quod uero in octauis
that is, “I stretch.” What is specifically meant
proprie ponitur, usus musicorum fecit,
by “octaves” is determined by the practice of
quoniam omnium proportionum
musicians, because it [i.e., the octave] is the
communis mensura est. Et ne mireris
common measure of all ratios. And do not
quia diximus a Luna ad Solem tonum.
marvel that we said that from the moon to the
Non enim locorum tonos, hoc est spatia,
Sun is a tone [tonum]. For here we are not
hic consideramus, sed uocum
studying the tones of positions [locorum tonos],
consonantias. Dum enim rationabiliter
i.e., the distances, but consonances of pitches
ex grauissimo omnium sonorum,
[vocum consonantias]. For clearly, when by
122 Saturno uidelicet, inchoauimus, et
reason we start from Saturn, the lowest of all
proportionali ascensione ad solaris soni
pitches [sonorum], and then in a proportionate
medietatem ascendimus, indeque
climb ascend to the middle, the pitch [soni] of
superius rationem extendentes, ad
the Sun, and from there extending the pattern
acutissimum planetarum omnium,
[rationem] to the highest [pitch] of all planets,
lunarem sonitum – nec immerito,
we arrive at the lunar sound, not without reason,
quoniam angustissimum circulorum
because it occupies a course [which is] the
omnium meatum optinet – peruenimus,
narrowest of all orbits. From this height, we
quo altius ascendere non ualentes, ad
cannot ascend [any further]; reason has brought
caelestis spherae acutissimum omnium
us to the movement of the celestial sphere, the
sonorum motum ratio nos perduxit,
highest of all sounds, and we have joined the
ideoque acutissimum omnium
highest of all sounding planets to the highest
planetarum sonorum acutissimo
pitched and outermost motion of all the cosmos
extimoque totius mundi motui tonica
[totius mundi], in a sounding proportion [tonica
Causa igitur erroris multis fit ignorantia
Thence, the cause for the error of many comes
tonorum, existimantes tonum illum, quo
from ignorance of tones [tonorum]. [They] think
Luna distat a terra, ad proportiones
the tone [tonum] between the Moon and the
uocum caelestium pertinere, non
Earth concerns the ratios of the heavenly voices
animaduertentes primum quidem quod
and do not first consider that a musical tone is
tonus musicus nonnisi inter duos sonos
only constructed between two pitches [sonos].
constituitur, terra autem quia in statu est
But the Earth, because it stands still, does not
123 nullum efficit sonum, inter terram igitur
bring forth a sound; therefore, between the
et Lunam musicus tonus non est; deinde
Earth and Moon there is no musical tone
quod nunquam musica interualla
[musicus tonus]. Then, in as far as musical
stadiorum numero mensurata sunt, sed
intervals are never measured by the number of
sola rationabili extentionum ascensione
stadia [i.e., unit of measure between the
secundum regulas numerorum. Aliud est
heavenly bodies], [they are measured] only in
enim centum uiginti sex milia stadiorum
the patterned ascension of distances according
mensurare a terra ad Lunam, aliud inter
to the rules of numbers. It is one thing to
numerum centum nonaginta duo et
measure 126,000 stades from the Earth to the
ducentos XVI: XXIIIIor unitates. Ibi
Moon, it is something else to measure the
tonus est CXXVI stadiorum; hic octaua
difference between the numbers 192 and 216,
pars minoris numeri tonus est XXIIII.
i.e., 24 units. Here, a tone is 126 [thousand]
stades; there, a tone is 24, the eighth part of the
Vtamur ergo exemplo quodam quo
Now, let us use a certain example, so that it may
manifestius apareat quod conamur
be more clearly evident what we are trying to
asserere. In choro, ubi multi simul
assert. In a choir where many singers sing
cantantes consonant, non locus in quo
together simultaneously, the place where each
unusquisque constituitur sed proportio
[singer] is situated is not considered, rather, the
suae uocis consideratur. In quocunque
proportional relationship of his sounding voice
enim loco fuerit qui grauissimam uocem
[to the others]. For, wherever the person who
emittit, necesse est grauissimam uocum
sings the lowest pitch will have been positioned,
124 omnium proportionem optineat. Eadem
it is necessary that he should maintain the
ratione, ubicunque in choro sit qui
lowest ratio of all pitches [uocum]. By the same
acutissimam uocem profert, necessario
reasoning, wherever in the choir might be the
sonorum omnium acumen tenebit. De
one who sings [profert] the highest pitch, he
succinentibus similiter intelligendum,
necessarily will hold the highest of all pitches
quorum non localis possitio sed
[sonorum]. Accompanying voices
proportionalis uociferatio in uniuersitate
[succinentibus] should be similarly understood;
modulaminis diiudicatur. Frustra igitur
of which, not the placed position, but the
localium interuallorum rationibus
proportional relationship between the voices
caelestem musicam coartari arbitrantur.
[proportionalis vociferatio] is distinguished in
In quo nihil aliud conspicitur nisi
the whole of the melody. Therefore, in vain, one
grauitatis et acuminis ascensus atque
considers the heavenly music to be constrained
descensus. Vt enim ascendit grauitas in
by the ratios of local intervallic distances
altitudinem decrescendo donec in
[localium interuallorum rationibus], in which
acumine finem inponat, sic altitudo
nothing else is seen except the ascent and
descendit similiter decrescendo
descent of lowness and highness. For as a low
quatenus in grauitatem terminum suum
pitch [grauitas] is raised by decreasing the
length of the vibrating body [altitudinem
descrescendo] until the end is reached,
similarly, a high pitch descends by increasing
[i.e., crescendo, sic, descrescendo] the length of
the vibrating body until it reaches its lowest
[pitch, grauitatem terminum].
125 Sectam platonicam antiquissimorum
[The following is according to] the Platonic sect
Grecorum de lapsu et apostrophia
of the most ancient Greeks concerning the fall
animarum. Qui ueluti omnes animas
and returning [apostrophia] of souls, who, as
simul conditas ante corpora terrena in
with all souls simultaneously created before
celestibus stellarum aditis delirantur,
earthly bodies, are led astray, having been
quae uelocitatem caelestis spherae non
deceived in the starry heavens [in celestibus
ualentes nec uolentes consequi,
stellarum aditis delirantur]. [Being] neither
tarditatem uero Saturni eligentes, primo
strong enough nor willing to follow the speed of
de celestibus sedibus in Saturni
the celestial sphere, they choose the slowness of
ambitum lapsae sunt, deinde inchoantes
Saturn. First, down from the celestial seats they
cadere nulla ratione retineri ualentes, per fall into the revolutions of Saturn, and from
diuersos planetarum circulos usque ad
there, beginning to fall and without reason
terrena corpora cadere conpulsae sunt,
strong enough to hold them, they are impelled
in quibus delictorum diuersis sordibus
to fall through the various orbits of the planets
pollutae iterum ab eis resolui coguntur
all the way to earthly bodies, in which, by
et ad inferna descendere, hoc est ad
diverse sins and polluted by filth, they are
illam uitam quae carnis mortem
forced again to be loosened and to descend to
sequitur. Et quoniam extra mundum
the lower regions, i.e., to that life which follows
nihil putabant esse, ad eosdem
the death of the flesh. And, because they [i.e.,
planetarum meatus per quos animas ad
the Ancient Greeks] thought that nothing is able
corpora lapsas machinabantur easdem
to exist beyond the world, to these same
redire putabant, pristinam ueluti naturae
passageways of the planets, through which the
soul falls to a body, they thought these same
126 [souls] were devising to return, learning, as if
by nature, their former placement [sedem].
Quoniam uero corporalibus maculis
[Souls] are unable to reach [their former
pollutae sine purgatione quam
placement] without the purification called
ΑΠΟΘΕΩCΙΝ appellabant, id est
ἀποθέωσις [i.e., apotheosis], i.e., redeification,
redificationem, quoniam primo in
because of the corporeal stains of pollution.
unitate diuinitati adherebant, ut
[The Ancient Greeks] believed that [as souls]
putabant, ad quam purgatae
cling first to divinity in [indivisible] unity,
reuertebantur, illuc peruenire non
[there they should] return, after having been
poterant, in ipsis planetarum meatibus
cleansed, [but stained souls] are unable to make
purgari estimabant, et quia aetheria
it back. It is in these pathways of the planets
spatia non eiusdem qualitatis sunt,
[that the Greeks] believed [souls] to be
quaedam quidem frigida, quaedam uero
cleansed. Since the ethereal spaces are not of
ardentia, quaedam temperata dicuntur
the same nature, indeed, some are said to be
esse, pro qualitate meritorum singulas
cold, some fiery hot, some temperate, they
singulis deputabant. Et meatum quidem
assigned each one [i.e., souls] individually a
Saturni Stigem uocabant, hoc est
place according to their own merits. The
tristitiam: inde alludit MARTIANVS
pathway of Saturn is called [the river] Styx; this
dicens “mestissimum deorum”
is sadness, to which Martianus alludes calling
Saturnum, propter nimietatem frigoris,
Saturn the “most unhappy of the gods,” because
quae Solis longinquitate et cursus
of its excess of cold, which comes about due to
tarditate nascitur. Martis uero meatum
its distance from the Sun and the slowness of its
127 ΠYΡΦΛΗΓΕΤΟΝ uocabant, hoc est
orbit. The pathway of Mars is called
ignem flammantem. In quibus duobus
πυριφλεγέθων, i.e., fire inflaming. In these two
meatibus impias animas aut semper
pathways [i.e., Saturn and Mars], wicked souls
torqueri si nimiae nequitiae forent, aut
are either always to be tormented, if they had
purgari ut ad quietem quandam possent
been excessively wicked, or to be cleansed, and
redire. Quam quietem in meatu Iouis et
so are able to return to a certain respite
Veneris esse putabant, in quibus
[quietem]. This respite was believed to be in the
ΕΛYCΕΟC, hoc est solutionis ex poenis
pathway of Jupiter and Venus, in which are the
campos esse putabant. Quoniam uero
Elysian fields [i.e., Ἠλύσιον πεδίον], this is
amoris corporum, quibus nascentibus
what they thought to be the plains for the
adiunctae sunt neque in purgationibus
relaxation from penalty. But, because of love of
neque in quietibus oblitae sunt, etiam
the flesh, to which they have been yoked from
purgatae redire iterum ad corpora
birth, these souls are neither in the state of
quaedam quidem appetunt, quaedam
purifications nor in the forgetful rest of those
uero spretis omnino corporibus suas
having been cleansed, and seek to return again
naturaliter adeunt stellas, uidelicet ex
to a body. [On the other hand,] some [souls]
quibus lapsae sunt. Ideoque ait quasdam
completely despise their bodies and naturally
ad ripas redditas, hoc est ad pristinum
approach the stars from which they evidently
statum, quasdam uero corporibus
had fallen. Therefore, he [i.e., Capella] says,
omnino liberari. Animarum autem
some [souls] are restored to the shores, that is,
liberam examinationem, qua deliberant
to a former state, some to be entirely freed from
utrum ad corpora reuersurae sunt an,
bodies. Moreover, the free balance of souls, by
omni corporea habitatione spreta, ad
which it is considered whether they are going to
128 sedes pristinas reuersurae, per alteram
return to bodies or, having scorned all fleshly
furtunarum de amne in amnem et
lodging, to return to their former seat, is
reciprocum de flumine ad flumen
signified through one of the destinies [i.e.,
reditum significat. Non potuit enim
fortunarum] moving out of and returning to
liuida unda, ut ipse ait, eas retinere.
various streams. Indeed, not even a malicious
Tantae siquidem libertatis est humana
wave could restrain them, as he himself said. So
anima ut, si uelit in miseria manere,
great is the freedom of the human soul that if it
maneat, sin in sua cinceritate permaneat.
should wish to remain in misery, it remains,
Sat est de humanarum cogitationum
[and, contrariwise,] if in its integrity
miseria deque infidelium
[cinceritate] it should persevere. So much is
sufficient [to say] concerning the misery of
human thinking and concerning the
machinations of the unfaithful.
Latoius dicitur Apollo, Latonae filius.
Latoius is called Apollo, the son of Leto.
Sucgestu, id est in alta sede, quia subtus
Sucgestu, that is in a raised seat, because
aliquid geritur sicut subpedale.
something is carried below just as if below the
In quattuor urnulis IIIIor anni tempora
In the four pots are signified the four seasons of
significantur, quae habent diuersas
a year, which have diverse qualities. Therefore,
qualitates. Et inde dicit: diuersa specie
he says diuersa specie formatae [shaped in
129 formatae, in ferro aestas, in plumbo
diverse appearance]. Iron signifies summer;
hiemps, in argento uer, in uitro
lead signifies winter; silver signifies spring;
glass signifies autumn.
Perlucentis uitri. Dicunt enim fysici
Perlucentis uitri [translucent glass]. Indeed,
quia in nullo tempore aer ita nitet uti in
natural philosophers [fysici, i.e., physici] say
that air shines in no other season as it does in
Singulae autem. Ideo hoc dicit quia
Singulae autem [one by one]. He says this
unumquodque tempus sua semina
because each season observes its own seeds.
obseruat. Nam quamuis non aparent
Although, seeds are not visible in winter,
semina in ieme, tamen nutriuntur in
nevertheless they are nurtured in the Earth.
terra. Ideo folia de arboribus adueniente
Therefore, the leaves of trees fall at the arrival
hieme cadunt, quia humorem arbores
of winter, because the trees do not have
Cecaumenis, ardoris. Cecauma, ardor.
Cecaumenis [i.e., κεκαυµένα, the torrid zone],
fires. Cecauma, fire.
Aer, inde Romani fecerunt uer, inde
Air [Aer] the Romans made spring [uer],
“uernans,” id est uirens. Ideo dicitur uer
thence, “vernal,” that is, being green [uirens].
“risus Iouis” esse, eo quod tunc omnia
Therefore, spring is said to be “the laughter
130 uirescunt et surgunt a terra. Aestatem
[risus] of Jupiter,” because at that time all
Vulcano, uer Ioui, hiemps Saturno,
things turn green and grow from the earth.
autumnum Iunoni, inde a Grecis uocatur
Summer [the Romans assigned to] Vulcan;
HPA propter fertilitatem. In ferro et
spring they [assigned] to Jupiter; winter they
plumbo intelligitur caliditas et frigiditas
[assigned] to Saturn; autumn they [assigned] to
quasi duo contraria. In argento uero et in Juno, who is called Ἥρα by the Greeks, because
uitro quasi quaedam clementia
of fruitfulness. In iron and lead, heat [caldicus]
intelligitur, hoc est in uerno et in
and coldness are understood, as though the two
are opposites. Truly, in silver and in glass, a
certain gentleness is understood, that is, in
spring and in autumn.
Apollo loetifer peste nubem aegena urit
Deadly [i.e., letifer] Apollo burns up the needy
[i.e., egena], pestilential cloud.
ΦΟΕΒΟC ΑΚΕΡCΕΚΟΜΗC ΛΙΜΟY
Φοῖβος ἀκερσεκόµης λοιµοῦ νεφέλην
ΝΕΦΕΑΗΝ ΑΠΟΡΟY ΚΕΙ
AKEPCEKOMHC compositum est ab
Ἀκερσεκόµης has been composed from κήρ,
eo quod est XEIP, id est mors, et
that is, “death,” and κοµίζω, that is, “I bring,”
KOMIZO, id est fero, hoc est: mortem
that is, “I bring death.”
The version of the Greek quotation printed here comes from Lucian’s Alexander the
False Prophet; cf. Jeauneau, 134.
Infularum. Infula prolixa uestis et
Infularum [of headbands]. The long band of a
garment and very thin.
Librico crine. Ac si dixisset: humido
Librico crine [with smooth hair]. As if he had
crine. Liber enim dicitur membranula
said, “with moist hair.” The certain [smooth]
quaedam quae fixit inter corticem et
membrane fixed between the bark and trunk [of
arborem, inde dicitur “librico.”
a tree] is indeed called Liber, thence, it is called
Pitho, interrogo, inde Pithius, ex quo
Πείθω [persuade], inquire [interrogo], thence,
dicitur Pithagoras, interrogatione non
Pithius [i.e., Πύθιος, a name for Apollo], from
which, Pythagoras is called; not needing
Properari. Pene autem in omnibus libris
Properari [to be hurried]. Moreover, pene [i.e.,
inuenitur “prope fari,” et talis est sensus: paene] in all books is found “to almost say”
Quamuis Musae uiderentur prope fari, id [prope fari], and this is the sense: Although the
est iuxta Apollinem consonare, tamen in
Muses appeared almost to speak, that is, to
officium Maiugenae perrexerunt.
sound harmoniously [consonare] near Apollo,
they proceeded still in the service of him born
of Maia [in officium Maiugenae, i.e., Mercury].
132 In participatum operis, id est in regnum
In participatum operis [having participated in
the work], that is, in the rule of the elements.
Nunc uersus sequuntur. Consultet, id est
Now, the lines follow: Consultet [he consults],
consilium a diis petat. Sors enim dubia
that is, he desires counsel from the gods.
res est et multis modis efficitur, et
Indeed, fate is a doubtful thing, and it is brought
maxime de futuris, atque ideo semper
about in many ways, and especially concerning
incertam causam significat.
future things, and, therefore, it always signifies
a doubtful cause.
De pectore. Semper legitur in aliis libris
De pectore [concerning the heart/mind]. It is
“da pectora,” et est sensus talis: Illud
always read in other books, da pectora, and
quod dii praeoptare uoluerunt non
such is the sense: That which the gods have
possumus mouere, quia fixum habent.
wished to prefer, we are not able to move,
Ideo dicit: Da pectora fixis, id est
because they consider it fixed [habent fixum].
pectora consilia fixa
Therefore, he says, da pectora fixis, that is, the
councils having been fixed in the heart
[pectorae consilia fixa].
Mansura uoluntas. Quasi dixisset:
Mansura uoluntas [a will to remain]. [It is] as if
Manebit semper in uoluntate tua
he had said, “It will remain always in your will
consilium habere meum, sed nondum
to have my counsel, but that counsel has not yet
illud consilium uenit.
Conscia Parnasio, id est sidera quae
Conscia Parnasio [known to Parnassus], that is,
notissima sunt cetui Parnaso, uirginibus
the famous stars associated with Parnassus,
uidelicet quae in Parnaso habitant.
namely, with the maidens who live on
Cui nec tartareos, id est, nec supera nec
Cui nec tartareos [to whom neither Tartarean],
infera nec fulmina occultari ab ea
that is, neither things above nor below nor
possunt, quia omnia scit.
lightning can be hid from her, because she
knows all things.
Fluctigena Nereus, id est, fluctus
Fluctigena Nereus [wave-born Nereus], that is,
gignens, aut fluctu genitus.
having been born of a wave, or having been
born from a wave
Fratrum. Hic dicit pluralem numerum
Fratrum [of brothers]. He uses a plural number
pro singulari. Sed quia legitur Mercurius for one. But, because one reads Mercury to be
supra Solem esse et tangit circulum
above the Sun and bordering the orbit of Mars,
Martis, potest hic intelligi nomine
this can be understood by the word fratrum, that
fratrum, id est Solem et Martem.
is, the Sun and Mars.
Immodico labore, id est sine labore aut
Immodico labore [immoderate labor], that is,
without labor or a small thing.
134 In iusa, id est iubet nos in sua iusa
In iusa [according to command], that is, “she
consentire. Vel etiam “iniusa,” id est, a
orders us to agree to her command.” Or,
nullo deorum iusa.
likewise, iniusa [unbidden], that is, commanded
by none of the gods.
Stent ardua. Spheram celestem dicit.
Stent ardua [they stand towering]. He says [this
Dicunt enim stoici quod omnia
concerning] the celestial sphere. The stoics say
uoluuntur, et sphera celestis et chori
that all things orbit, both the celestial sphere and
superum. Peripathetici autem dicunt
choirs of planets [chori superum]. And the
quod nullo modo uoluitur mundus, nisi
Peripatetic [i.e., Aristotelian] philosophers say
chorus superum tantum.
that in no way do the heavens [mundus] revolve,
except only the choir of planets.
Inuito Ioue, id est Ioue nolente. Hic
Inuito Ioue, that is, unwilling Jupiter. This
sectam Caldeorum sequitur. Illi enim
follows the sect of the Chaldeans who had
sacra mitria habebant – sacra mitria
sacred headbands [i.e., mitra]. Sacred
dicuntur sacra Solis; Mitros enim caldea
headbands are said [to be] sacred to the Sun;
lingua Sol dicitur – hoc est quando Sol
indeed, the Sun is called Mitros in the Chaldean
per decem lineas reuersus est in
language—this is, because the Sun turned back
orologium. Ignorantes autem Caldei
ten lines on the dial [orologium, i.e.,
uirtutem diuinam putauerunt Solem
ὡρολόγιον]. Moreover, the Chaldeans, not
fecisse sua uirtute. Simili modo in
knowing the divine power, thought the Sun to
have acted by its own power. [It was] by a
135 similar manner in the storming of Gibeon.172
Letabunda uirtus. Virtus et Minerua de
Letabunda uirtus [Virtue, greatly-rejoicing].
uertice Iouis natae sunt. Philologia et
Virtue and Minerva were born from the head of
Philoponia, id est, amor sollertii uel
Jupiter. Philologia and Philoponia [i.e.,
Φιλοπονία, love of labor], that is, love of skill
or love of study.
De ingenito rigore: Virtus enim, quae
De ingenito rigore [from engendered severity]:
superat omne coniugium. Mirandum est
[It is] Virtue, who is above each marriage. It is
quia tam magno gaudio repleta est de
to be marveled that she was filled with such
nuptiis, ut etiam de ingenito rigore
great joy concerning the marriage that she
relented [descenderet] from engendered
“Suppellectile” dicitur omnia
Suppellectile [i.e., supellectilis, furnishings]
instrumenta domus. Omnia enim
means all the tools of a house. Indeed, all the
instrumenta sapientiae studio reperta
tools of wisdom have been discovered by study.
Propinqua Mantices. Nam studio et
Propinqua Mantices [kindred Mantice]. For, by
sollertia humanae naturae reperta est
the study and skill of human nature, divination
Eriugena seems to be referencing two biblical accounts: Isaiah 38:8 and Joshua 10:12.
In ipsam quoque Sophian. Ac si
In ipsam quoque Sophian [to that one, even
dixisset: Sapientia inter homines non
Wisdom]. As if he had said, wisdom would not
appareret sicut apparet, nisi esset
have appeared among men as she appears,
unless there was study of wisdom.
Nam ΨΙΧΗΝ incultam. Omnis anima
Nam Ψυχήν incultam [For uncultivated Psyche].
primo omnia ornamenta sapientiae
Each soul at first loses all ornaments of wisdom
perdit in tantum ut dicatur ferino more
to such an extent that she is said to live ferino
uiuere in siluis et de fructibus comedere,
more [the way of a wild beast] in the forest and
sed ex studio et ex maximo ingenio
to eat of crops. But, from study and by means of
Philologiae conuersa est ΨΙΧΗC, et ideo the abundant natural capacity of Philology,
dicitur expolita esse, id est ornata.
Psyche was changed, and, therefore, she is said
to have been refined, that is, adorned.
Catalecticum metrum constat ex
The catalectic meter consists of a spondee,
spondeo, coriambo, diambo et una
choriambus, diiamb and one syllable. For
syllaba. Cuius exemplum est:
“Postquam res Asiae perit procellis.”
Postquam res Asiae perit procellis is beat out in
Postquam res Asiae perit procellis.
U — U
Certum est Lauripotens decusque
UU — U—
U — —
Postquam res Asiae perit procellis.
— U U
Certum est Lauripotens decusque diuum. 173
Ex contiguis, ex cognatione generis.
Ex contiguis [from touching], from kinship of
Vel: ex contiguis, ex assiduis consiliis.
birth. Or ex contiguis, from constant counsels.
Semper enim nostra consilia sunt iuncta.
Indeed, our counsels always join [us].
Probare. Secunda persona est, pro eo
Probare [to approve]. It is second person; it
quod est “probaris.”
stands for probaris [you are being approved].
Quam Delio. “Quam” ponitur pro “uel,”
Quam Delio. Quam is placed for uel, uel for
uel pro “quantum.”
quantum [as much as].
Inquid Virtus. Hic Virtus rethorico more
Inquid Virtus [Virtue says]. Virtue, by the
conuertitur in Mercurium. Mercurius
custom of oration, turns to Mercury. Mercury
enim primo increpabat illam quia illa
first rebuked her, because she said “Nil igitur
dicebat: “Nil igitur immorandum, et
immorandum, etc.” [“Therefore, there is to be
caetera.” Nunc reddit uices. Mercurius
no delay.” Cf., §24] Now she takes a turn
Eriugena is referencing an example from Ars grammatica IV by Marius Victorinus to
highlight the meter used at the beginning of §24 in De Nuptiis.
138 dedit consilium ut Appollo exiret ad
[reddit uices]. Mercury gave counsel that
Iouem, sed dixit Virtus: Vterque
Apollo should go to Jupiter, but Virtue said,
uestrum Iouem conciliat. Ille mentem, id
“Vterque uestrum Iouem conciliat [“Each of
est: Appollo scit quid in Iouis mente est.
you persuade Jupiter”]. Ille mentem, that is,
Apollo knows what is in the mind of Jupiter.
Secus ponitur pro eo quod est “prope”
Secus [by, beside] stands for that which is near
Cessim aduerbium est, et significat:
Cessim [bending] is an adverb and means by
Remota statione. Duae stationes sunt,
Remota statione [distant watch]. There are two
una mane, altera uespere. Nam radii
watches, one morning, the other evening. For
Solis cogunt Mercurium aut praeire
the rays of the Sun compel Mercury either to
Solem aut subsequi in signifero; aut
precede or pursue the Sun through the zodiac, or
sursum mittunt eum, et uidetur
they hurl him up and it seems as if Mercury
Mercurius quasi stare in uno loco, dum
stands in one place, while, [thus] having been
sursum ascendit libratus ad Solem
hurled, he ascends upwards straining up to the
Sun [ad Solem tendens].
Pia pignora, id est pii filii. BEDA enim
Pia pignora [upright pledges], that is, upright
dicit: “Pignera rerum, pignora filiorum.”
sons. Indeed, [Venerable] Bede says [cf., Liber
139 de orthographia], “Pledges are of matters,
guarantees are of sons.”174
Conuenite: aut fallite, uel circonuenite,
Conuenite [Convene]: either deceive, or come
uel simul uenite.
around [circonuenite], or likewise come.
Conhibens, id est claudens oculos, nam
Conhibens, that is, closing [his] eyes, for Jupiter
Iouis non apparet, Sole aparente.
cannot be seen [because of] the Sun’s
Allubescat, consentiat uel delectetur.
Allubescat [he should please], he should consent
or he should delight.
Cum Stilbonte. Stilbon dicitur rutilans
Cum Stilbonte [with Stilbon, i.e., Mercury].
uel splendens. Et dicunt fisici: cum
Stilbon is said [to be] reddening or shining. The
Mercurius in coitu Iouis in quacunque
natural philosophers [fisici] say that when
parte anni, maxime in martio, tunc
Mercury meets Jupiter in whatever part of the
allubescit Iouis coniugiis.
year, especially in March, then the meeting
Cf., De Orthographica: “Pignera rerum, pignora filiorum et affectionum.” Bede, The
Complete Works of Venerable Bede, Vol. 6, trans. J. A. Giles (London: Whittaker and Co., 1843),
Perflatione, id est: Virga Mercurii
Perflatione [draft], that is, the wand of Mercury
uolare Virtutem fecit.
makes Virtue fly.
Presagire, to prophesy.
Auguriales alites. Tribus modis fit
Auguriales alites [Augurial birds]. Augury from
augurium ex auibus: aut numero, aut
birds happens in three ways: either by number,
ordine, aut uoce.
or order, or call [uoce].
“Petasum” dicitur omne genus uolatile;
Every kind of winged thing is called Petasum;
dicitur enim petens sursum.
indeed, it is said, “straining up” [petens
Canora alite. Hic non est opus
Conora alite [i.e., canora alite, melodious bird].
intelligere ut cycni sint omnes, sed aues
It is not hard to understand that they [i.e., the
Muses] are all swans, or any white birds.
Lumine quippe ueris. Nam ex hoc
Lumine quippe ueris [obviously by the light of
intelligitur quia ista ascensio in uerno
spring]. For from this it is understood that this
tempore fuit. Ideo dicit: Lumine ueris, id ascension was during the springtime. Therefore,
est flores qui crescunt in uerno tempore.
he says, Lumine ueris, that is, flowers that grow
in the springtime.
Sudis tractibus, id est puris spatiis.
Sudis tractibus [bright regions], that is, clear
Aerem intelligit in hoc loco. Dicitur
spaces. The sky is understood in this place. He
enim sudum quasi subtus udum, sicut
says sudum as if below the wet [subtus udum],
est inferior pars aeris.
just as it is in the lower parts of the air.
Non est quae habeat tam pulchram
There is nothing that has such a beautiful voice
uocem uti cycnus, inconuenientem
as a swan, yet dissimilar, as the voices of
tamen, sic uoces aquarum.
The Names of the Muses
OYPANIH caelestis. OYPANOC
[Urania] Οὐρανία heavenly. Οὐρανός heaven.
ΠΟΛΙΜΝΙΑ, ΠΟΛΙΜΝΗΜΗ, multa
[Polyhymnia] Πολύµνια, πολυµνήµων,
EYTEPΠH delectabilis, a uerbo
[Euterpe] Εὐτέρπη delightful, from the verb
EPATO, amabilis, a uerbo EPΩ, amo.
[Erato] Ἐρατώ , lovely, from the verb ἐράω, I
142 ΜΕΛΠΟΜΕΝΗ, ΜΕΛΠΟC
[Melpomene] Μελποµένη, ΜΕΛΠΟC
ΜΕΝΩΜΗΝΗ, cantus manens.
ΜΕΝΩΜΗΝΗ, remaining song.
ΤΕΡΨΙΚΟΡΗ, ΤΕΡΨΙC ΚΩΡΗ,
[Terpsichore] Τερψιχόρη, τέρψις κόρη, young
[Calliope] Καλλιόπη, ΚΑΛΛΟCΠΟΙΜΗΝΗ,
making beautiful [pulchrifica], forming
[Clio] Κλειώ, glory.
ΘΑΛΙΑ uirilis, florida.
[Thalia] Θάλεια, mature, blooming.
Vitta crinalis. De corpore illius nihil
Vitta crinalis [hair band]. Concerning
mutatum est, sed crini in radios, laurus
[Apollo’s] body, nothing was changed but [his]
in lampadem, uolucres in equos.
hair into rays, [his] laurel into a flame, [and his]
birds into steeds.175
Capella’s actual text when describing Apollo’s transformation runs, “interea tractus
aerios iam Pheobus exierat, cum subito ei vitta crinalis immutatur in radios, laurusque, quam
dextera retinebat, in lampadem mundani splendoris accenditur, fiuntque volucres, qui currum
Delium subvehebant, anheli flammantis lucis alipedes” (Willis, Martianus Capella, 13, §29).
Familiaris signi dicit, quia Castor et
He says, Familiaris signi [family sign], because
Pullux fratres sunt Mercurii et
Castor and Pollux are brothers of Mercury and
144 CHAPTER 4
Periphyseon Book I
As an expansion on the foregoing discussion of music, soul, and cosmos using Eriugena’s
commentary on Capella’s De Nuptiis, we now turn to portions selected from Periphyseon,
Eriugena’s greatest philosophical work. In Periphyseon Book I, Eriugena considers “nature that
creates and is not created, and, at §474, he is in the midst of a lengthy excursus of Aristotle’s ten
categories, listed earlier, at §463, as essence—essentia, quantity—quantitas, quality—qualitas,
relation—ad aliquid, situation—situs, condition—habitus, place—locus, time—tempus, action—
agere, and affection—pati. Eriugena also explains how all the ten categories can be divided into
two larger genera, motion and rest (cf., §469B). In regard to the category of condition, Eriugena
states that condition [habitus]
quae omnium kategoriarum propter nimiam sui amplitudinem obscurissima esse uidetur.
Non enim est ulla kategoria fere, in qua habitus quidam inueniri non possit. Nam et
essentiae seu substantiae habitu quodam ad se inuicem respiciunt. Dicimus enim
rationabilis essentia irrationabilisque qua proportione, id est quo habitu, ad se inuicem
respiciunt. Non enim irrationabilis diceretur nisi ab habitu absentiae rationis, quomodo
non aliunde rationabilis uocatur nisi habitu praesentiae rationis. Omnis enim proportio
habitus est, quamuis non omnis habitus proportio.
seems to be the most obscure of all the categories because of its excessive range. For
there is no category in which some condition is not found. For even essences or
145 substances are considered mutually in respect of some condition. For we state in what
proportion [proportione], that is, condition, rational and irrational essence are considered
mutually; for the irrational could not be so called except for its condition of absence of
reason, as the rational is not so called save from its condition of the presence of reason.
For every proportion is a condition, but not every condition is a proportion.176
Eriugena’s notion that condition is applicable to all the other categories and his equating
condition with proportion (proportione) in some instances are discussed more fully below. For
now, we should note that Eriugena considered proportion essential to the conceptualization of
Next, Eriugena goes on to propose that the possession of virtues—and even the liberal
arts—constitutes a type of condition, because they are fixed in the mind and eternal. In contrast,
the instability of physical bodies does not permit the designation condition. As for the category
of place, Eriugena’s description also emphasizes the mind, since places are in fact definitions and
therefore conceptual. Eriugena then cites the seven liberal arts again, and a description of each
discipline is included in this section. The definition for musica runs, “Music is the discipline
discerning by the light of reason the harmony of all things in natural proportions which are either
in motion or at rest.”177
This section, in which the liberal arts are defined (§475A–B), though consistently
incorporated in copies of Periphyseon subsequent to Rheims, Bibliothèque Municipale, 875 (see
MacInnis, trans., Periphyseon I, CCCM 161, 36 (PL122:466A)
MacInnis, trans., Periphyseon I, CCCM 161, 48 (PL122:475A-B): “Musica est
omnium quae sunt siue in motu siue in statu in naturalibus proportionibus armoniam rationis
lumine dinoscens disciplina.”
146 Chapter 2), was itself an addition to Rheims, Bibliothèque Municipale, 875 in the Irish hand i1.
Originally, the text merely cited the liberal arts as an example of condition; the addition by i1
expanded this point by defining the different arts. The identity of i1 is not known definitively,
and four hypotheses are summarized by Jeauneau in the introduction to his critical edition of
Periphyseon I.178 The fourth hypothesis represents the opinion of Terence Bishop, who held i1 to
be a script of Eriugena himself, and, in defense of Bishop’s assertion, Jeauneau wrote, “De nos
jours, c’est cette quatrième hypothése qui paraît la plus vraisemblable.”179 A page from Rheims,
Bibliothèque Municipale, 875 (f. 52r) featuring textual additions in the hand i1 is displayed in
Figure 1 below.
It should be noted that in this section defining the liberal arts, the wording used in the
different manuscripts is not consistent in the case of musica. The definition quoted above is
presented by Jeauneau in his authoritative, critical text, and it is the definition written by i1 in
Rheims, Bibliothèque Municipale, 875. The other manuscript traditions differ in the definition of
music with regard to the ablative specifying rest (statu); movement (motu) is consistently
included. For example, rest is not mentioned in the definition of musica in Paris, Bibliothèque
nationale de France, Latin 12964:
Rheims, Bibliothèque Municipal, MS 875: Musica est omnium quae sunt siue in motu
siue in statu in naturalibus proportionibus armoniam rationis lumine dinoscens disciplina.
Periphyseon I, CCCM 161, xxi.
Periphyseon I, CCCM 161, xxii.
147 Figure 1: Rheims, Bibliothèque Municipale, 875 (f. 52r)180
Rheims, Bibliothèque Municipal, MS 875: “Music is the discipline discerning by the light
of reason the harmony of all things in natural proportions which are either in motion or at
Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Latin 12964: Musica est omnium quae sunt in
motu scibili naturalibusque proportionibus armoniam rationis lumine dinoscens disciplina.
Periphyseon I, Edvardvs Jeauneau, ed., CCCM (Turnhout: Brepols, 1999), vol. 161, iii.
148 Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Latin 12964: “Music is the discipline discerning
by the light of reason the harmony of all things in natural proportions which are in
Accepting for the moment the description of musica and the other liberal arts from the
hand of i1, it is interesting to note the broad applicability of musica in contrast to the other liberal
Gramatica est articulatae uocis custos et moderatrix disciplina.
Retorica est finitam causam persona, materia, occasione, qualitate, loco, tempore,
facultate disserens copiose atque ornate disciplina, breuiterque diffiniri potest: Retorica
est finitae causae septem periochis sagax et copiosa disciplina.
Dialectica est communium animi conceptionum rationabilium diligens inuestigatrixque
Arithmetica est numerorum contemplationibus animi succumbentium rata intemerataque
Geometrica est planarum figurarum solidarumque spatia superficiesque sagaci mentis
intuitu considerans disciplina.
Musica est omnium quae sunt siue in motu siue in statu in naturalibus proportionibus
armoniam rationis lumine dinoscens disciplina.
Astrologia est caelestium corporum spatia motusque reditusque certis temporibus
149 Grammar is the discipline that protects and controls articulate speech.
Rhetoric is the copious and ornate discipline examining a determined subject by means of
the headings: person, matter, occasion, quality, place, time, and opportunity. It can be
briefly defined: Rhetoric is the acute and copious discipline examining a determined
subject by its seven circumstances.
Dialectic is the discipline that diligently investigates the rational, common conceptions of
Arithmetic is the reasoned and pure discipline of numbers contemplated by the mind.
Geometry is the discipline considering by acute observation of the mind the intervals and
surfaces of plane and solid figures.
Music is the discipline discerning by the light of reason the harmony of all things in
natural proportions that are either in motion or at rest.
Astronomy is the discipline investigating the dimensions of the heavenly bodies, their
motions, and their returning at certain times.181
So defined, the broad applicability of musica arises from its concern with proportion (a
species of the category condition when studying multiple items) whether in motion or at rest
(two broad headings under which all the ten categories are divided by Eriugena, cf., §469B).
Considering first the significance of proportion, Eriugena posits that many things are understood
in terms of something else or composed of properties derived from two opposites; simply put,
proportion is the relation of multiple objects or quantities. And, of course, most scholars of the
liberal arts in Eriugena’s day would have known Boethius’s definition of musica as quantity
MacInnis, trans., Periphyseon I, CCCM 161, 47–48.
150 related to quantity (DIM II:3). Therefore, broad applicability and great significance is placed on
the discipline concerned principally with proportion and ratio, if proportion is so universally
employed in the ordering of the universe. Returning, then, to the section quoted above in
Periphyseon I in which Eriugena defined condition (habitus):
Est igitur proportio species quaedam habitudinis. Si autem exemplo uis declarari
quomodo habitus proportionalis in essentia inuenitur, ex numeris elige exemplar.
Numeri enim, ut aestimo, essentialiter in omnibus intelliguntur. In numeris
nanque omnium rerum subsistit essentia. Vides igitur qualis proportio est in
duobus et tribus?
A. Video plane. Sesqualteram esse arbitror. Et hoc uno exemplo aliorum omnium
substantialium numerorum inter se inuicem collatorum uarias proportionis species
N. Intende itaque ad reliqua et cognosce nullas quantitatis species esse, seu
qualitatis, seu ipsius quae dicitur “ad aliquid,” seu situs, lociue, temporisue,
agendi uel patiendi, in quibus quaedam species habitudinis non reperiatur.
A. Saepe talia quaesiui et ita repperi. Nam, ut paucis exemplis utar, in
quantitatibus magna et parua et media inter se comparata multa pollent habitudine.
Item in quantitatibus numerorum, linearum, temporum, aliorumque similium
habitudines proportionum perspicue reperies.
[Nutritor:] So proportion is a certain species of condition. But, if you desire an
example to show how the condition of proportion is found in essence, take the
151 case of numbers. For numbers, I suppose, are understood to be present in all
things essentially. For it is in numbers that the essence of all things subsists. Do
you see, then, what kind of proportion is between two and three?
A[lumnus]: I see it clearly. I believe it is the proportion of two-thirds
[sesqualteram], and, by this one example, I am able to know the various kinds of
proportion of all the other substantial numbers, when they are brought into
relation with each other.
N[utritor]: Attend, then, to the rest [of the categories], and learn that there are no
species of quantity, of quality, of that called “in relation to something,” or of
situation, place, time, action, or passion, in which some kind of condition is not
A[lumnus]: I have often searched such matters and found it so. For, to use a few
examples, in quantities when the great, the small, and the medium [media] are
compared among themselves, condition is plainly evident. Likewise, in the
quantities of numbers, distances, durations of time, and other similar things, you
will clearly find the condition of proportion.182
The concepts of motion and rest that appear in his definition of music recur several more
times as Eriugena continues his explanation of place by describing the cosmos with the central
Earth at rest and other elements (water, air, and fire) moving about it “in unceasing rotation.”183
These four elements come together from time to time to form physical bodies that are considered
MacInnis, trans., Periphyseon I, CCCM 161, 36-37 (PL122:466B-C).
Periphyseon I, CCCM 161, 49.
152 to be in motion and accidental to the essence of their nature, which is considered at rest. More
broadly, the overall participation of essences and accidents are considered a motion that will
ultimately find rest in God.
Continuing on the topic of place, Eriugena cites the World Soul of Plato’s Timaeus. In
Eriugena’s characterization, Plato had explained that the visible cosmos is an enormous body
made up of four elements and containing a soul, which is a universal life-principle that “animates
and moves all things which are in motion or at rest” (omnia quae in motu atque in statu sunt
uegetat atque mouet). Eriugena notes that 1) the World Soul, though in motion ever animating its
cosmic body, is also ever at rest, keeping “its own natural and unchanging state” (§477A), and 2)
its cosmic body is also ever stable, as in the case of the central Earth, and ever moved as with the
other elements by a “proportionate moderation” (proportionali moderamine) between the
heaviness of Earth and lightness of the heavens (§477B). Eriugena concludes that place and body
have to be two separate things, since body is contained within place. The implication, which
Eriugena explains more fully later in Periphyseon, is that the cosmos, as a body, is contained
within place, which, as a definition, is held in the mind (§478B). And, since a body must have a
beginning, the cosmos is also contained within time, another category of the mind.
The definition of musica as the discipline discerning “the harmony of all things in natural
proportions which are either in motion or at rest” has resonance with Eriugena’s subsequent
discussion of place and body, summarized above, and, to my thinking, adds credence to the
theory that i1 was, in fact, Eriugena, annotating and expanding his own work. For example, as a
principle, soul animates all things “which are in motion or at rest.” It appears then, in terms of its
broad applicability, the definition of musica included in this section subtly singles out this
discipline as having cosmic and metaphysical significance. Furthermore, if the dyad of motion
153 and rest is accepted in musica’s definition, the natural proportions apparent throughout the
physical universe and in the movements of the soul are recognized by using categories and
concepts articulated by musica, for Eriugena brings motion and rest to bear on each topic.
Continuing his discussion of place and time as predicates for existence, Eriugena states
that “everything that is, except God, subsists after some manner,”184 a point Eriugena confirms
by referencing the final portion of Augustine’s treatise De musica:
Videsne igitur locum tempusque ante omnia quae sunt intelligi? Numerus enim locorum
et temporum, ut ait sanctus Augustinus in sexto de musica, praecedit omnia quae in eis
sunt. Modus siquidem (id est mensura) omnium rerum quae creata sunt naturaliter
conditionem earum ratione praecedit. Qui modus atque mensura uniuscuiusque locus
dicitur et est.
Do you not see that place and time are understood as prior to all things that are? For the
numerus of places and times, as St. Augustine says in De musica Book VI, precedes all
things that are in them. Accordingly, the mode [modus], i.e., the measure of all naturally
created things, logically precedes their condition; this mode and measure of each thing is
called its place, and so it is.185
Although the citation of De musica in this section is brief, it is more than a passing
reference. In the following, I provide a conspectus of Augustine’s argument in De musica,
MacInnis, trans., Periphyseon I, CCCM 161, 56 (PL122:482A): “Ideoque omne quod
est praeter deum, quoniam aliquo modo subsistit et per generationem subsistere inchoauit,
necessario loco ac tempore concluditur.”
MacInnis, trans., Periphyseon I, CCCM 161, 56-57 (PL122:482B).
154 especially Book VI, and highlight its implications for Eriugena’s dialogue in Periphyseon. For
example, in the above quotation citing De musica, Eriugena mentioned numerus and its measure
in the context of a hierarchy of existence. There is some ambiguity with regard to the term
numerus, which can mean either “number” or “rhythm.” So, to understand Eriugena’s point, 1)
we must understand what Augustine meant and implied by numerus and its measure in De
musica and 2) discern how Eriugena read Augustine’s use of the term.
Augustine’s De Musica
In his Retractationes, Augustine stated that he began De musica as he prepared for
baptism in Milan, in 387 CE.186 It is his only surviving educational treatise and is actually
unfinished; whereas the six books extant today primarily treat rhythm, Augustine intended to
write about melody also. In its organization, the majority of the first five books handle the
rhythms of quantitative Latin meter (considered at that time to be a branch of music, in which
long syllables are measured as equivalent to two short syllables), its classifications, use in verse
composition, etc. De musica Book VI, to which Eriugena referred, was better known in
Augustine’s day than the first five, and it takes up philosophical questions of aesthetics and the
implications of rhythm for morals and psychology, as well as the proportionate ordering
observed in the motions of the universe and soul. That De musica was studied as an authoritative
source on music at the time of Eriugena can be observed in how it was combined with other
musical texts during the ninth century. For example, Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France,
Latin 7200 (s.IX) contains the six books of Augustine’s De musica, De institutione musica by
Dating the different portions of De musica is actually not so straightforward; for a
summary of the different perspectives, see Martin Jacobsson’s Aurelius Augustinus: De musica
liber VI (Stockholm, Almqvist and Wiksell, 2002), xvff.
155 Boethius, the ninth book of Capella’s De nuptiis Philologiae et Mercurii, and a treatise on the
divisions of the monochord.187
De musica VI begins with a prologue, in which Augustine explains that all his preceding
discussions are but childish trifles and that their true worth lies in guiding the enquiring mind to
this final culminating portion. Augustine distinguishes four types of rhythm (numerus): those in
the process of being produced (in operatione pronuntiantis), those that are heard (in sensu
audientis), those residing in memory (in memoria), and those sounding in the air (in sono). These
types of rhythm are ordered, in terms of excellence, and a fifth superior category is introduced,
those rhythms perceived by natural judgment (numeri in naturali iudicio sentiendi). In order to
rank their types, Augustine explains how rhythms act in relation to the human soul and physical
body; he concludes that both soul and body have their own rhythms (respectively superior and
inferior) and that the soul cannot be acted upon by the body.
For Augustine, the loftiest action one may take with regard to rhythm is its judgment
according to reason (aestimare ratione), the very action necessary to best pursue musical
knowledge, according to his definition from De musica Book I: “Musica est scientia bene
modulandi.” Following Bower, I take modulor to signify an application of measure to musical
quantity, as in rhythm, and not simply musical singing or playing.188 This approach, applying
measure to musical quantity, is borne out in the following quotation from §25, in which long and
short rhythmic divisions are considered motions that are measured. Also, in the following,
Augustine specifies criteria used for the reasonable judgment he intends: equality (parilitas) and
Jacobsson, Aurelius Augustinus, xxxvi.
Calvin Bower, Fundamentals of Music (New Haven, Yale University Press, 1989),
156 Ipsa enim, ut id potissimum dicam, quod ad huius operis susceptionem adtinet, primo,
quid sit ipsa bona modulatio, considerauit et eam in motu quodam libero et ad suae
pulchritudinis finem conuerso esse perspexit. Deinde uidit in motibus corporum aliud
esse, quod breuitate et productione temporis uariaretur, in quantum magis esset minusue
diuturnum, aliud localium spatiorum percussione in quibusdam gradibus celeritatis et
tarditatis. Qua diuisione facta illud, quod in temporis mora esset, modestis interuallis et
humano sensui adcommodatis articulatim uarios efficere numeros eorumque genera et
ordinem usque ad modulos uersuum persecuta est. Postremo adtendit, quid in his
moderandis, operandis, sentiendis, retinendis ageret anima, cuius caput ipsa esset, hosque
omnes animales numeros a corporalibus separauit, seque ipsam haec omnia neque
animaduertere, neque distinguere, neque certe numerare sine quibusdam suis numeris
potuisse cognouit, eosque ceteris inferioris ordinis iudiciaria quadam aestimatione
praeposuit. Et nunc cum ipsa sua delectatione, qua in temporum momenta propendet et
talibus numeris modificandis nutus suos exhibet, sic agit: quid est, quod in sensibili
numerositate diligimus? Num aliud praeter parilitatem quandam et aequaliter dimensa
For [reason], in order to focus especially on that which is relevant for the understanding
of this work, first pondered over what a good modulation is [quid sit ipsa bona
modulatio] and saw that it consists in some kind of movement that is free and turned to
the goal of its own beauty. Then, it noticed that there was one thing in the movements of
bodies, which varied with respect to shortness or length of time, inasmuch as it was of
longer or shorter duration, and another thing that varied with respect to the beating of
157 local spaces, with respect to certain degrees of speed and slowness. Having made this
division, it continued to turn that which was in the time-span, properly divided with wellmeasured intervals adapted to the human perception, into various rhythms, and, then, to
turn these into kinds and into an order, all the way down to the verse meters. Finally, it
[i.e., reason] directed its attention to the way in which the soul, of which it was the head,
was active in moderating, activating, perceiving, and retaining these rhythms, and it
separated all these rhythms of the soul from the corporeal ones and recognized that it
would not have been able to observe or distinguish or, at the very least, to enumerate all
these things without some rhythms of its own, and it set these above the others of inferior
rank, through some kind of judicial evaluation. Now it reasons in the following way with
its own pleasure, with which it inclines itself towards the spans of time and shows its will
in modifying such rhythms: what is it that we enjoy in sensual rhythmicality [sensibili
numerositate]? Is it anything but a kind of equality [parilitatem] and equally measured
intervals [aequaliter dimensa interualla]?189
Augustine then runs through several examples of how the discernment of rhythmic
equality and symmetry has implications for understanding the entire created order. To begin with,
the soul’s discernment, by reason, of what is beautiful in earthly rhythm speaks to the problem of
how the soul should orient itself in the material world, where the perfect parity of God is only
imperfectly imitated. In §29, Augustine explains how the motions of the cosmos point the soul
toward such an apposite ordering; the planets move in perfect unity in imitation of eternity, and
their rhythms unite earthly things in “the song of the universe” (carmini uniuersitatis):
Jacobsson, trans., Aurelius Augustinus [De musica VI], 58–61 (§25).
158 Non ergo inuideamus inferioribus quam nos sumus, nosque ipsos inter illa, quae infra nos
sunt, et illa, quae supra nos sunt, ita Deo et Domino nostro opitulante ordinemus, ut
inferioribus non offendamur, solis autem superioribus delectemur. Delectatio quippe
quasi pondus est animae. Delectatio ergo ordinat animam. “Vbi enim erit thesaurus tuus,
ibi erit et cor tuum,” ubi delectatio, ibi thesaurus, ubi autem cor, ibi beatitudo aut miseria.
Quae uero superiora sunt nisi illa, in quibus summa, inconcussa, incommutabilis, aeterna
manet aequalitas, ubi nullum est tempus, quia mutabilitas nulla est, et unde tempora
fabricantur et ordinantur et modificantur aeternitatem imitantia, dum caeli conuersio ad
idem redit et caelestia corpora ad idem reuocat, diebusque et mensibus et annis ac lustris
ceterisque siderum orbibus legibus aequalitatis et unitatis et ordinationis obtemperat? Ita
caelestibus terrena subiecta orbes temporum suorum numerosa successione quasi carmini
Therefore, let us not look askance at what is inferior to us, but let us place ourselves
between what is below us and what is above us, with the help of our God and Lord, in
such a way that we are not offended by what is inferior but enjoy only what is superior.
For pleasure is like a weight for the soul, and so pleasure sets the soul in its place. “For
where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” [Luke 12:34], where your pleasure
is, there your treasure will be, but where your heart is, there your beatitude or misery will
be. But what is superior except that in which the highest, unshakeable, unchangeable,
eternal equality exists, where there is no time, because there is no change, and from
which the times are created and set in order and modified in imitation of eternity, while
the celestial rotation returns to the same place and recalls the celestial bodies to the same
159 place and through the days and months and years and lustra and the other orbits of the
stars obeys the laws of equality and unity and order? In this way, through the rhythmical
succession of their times [temporum suorum numerosa successione], the orbits unite
terrestrial things, subjected to the heavenly ones, to the song of the universe.190
Additionally, for Augustine, those rhythms we experience in our earthly life may be
beautiful, but they should not be valued inordinately. Rather, pleasing, well-crafted rhythms
point us toward an inherent love of order—which the soul needs—and serve as another call to
embrace reason as opposed to base sensuality. When the soul internalizes physical rhythms, this
faculty is called memory, and these memories are called φαντασία (or phantasia), whereas
subsequent imaginations, using the internalized rhythms, are called φάντασµα (or phantasma).
Augustine considers the former a movement of the mind and the latter as secondary (a movement
produced by another movement) and, therefore, deceptive and untrustworthy. Similarly, the mind
is better served by orienting itself upward toward spiritual rhythms and contemplation of God,
since such contemplations are trustworthy and, in fact, impart health to our physical existence.
In §43, Augustine states that orienting the soul toward God is a matter of properly
ordered love, to which all the movements and rhythms of human life are to be directed:
Quid, me putas hinc diutius debere dicere, cum diuinae scripturae tot uoluminibus et tanta
auctoritate et sanctitate praeditae nihil nobiscum aliud agant, nisi ut diligamus Deum et
Dominum nostrum ex toto corde et ex tota anima et ex tota mente et diligamus proximum
Jacobsson, trans., Aurelius Augustinus [De musica VI], 66.
160 nostrum tamquam nosmet ipsos? Ad hunc finem igitur si omnes illos humanae actionis
motus numerosque referamus, sine dubitatione mundabimur.
Now, do you think that I should speak at length about this, when the holy Scriptures in so
many volumes and with such authority and sanctity tell us nothing but this, that we shall
love our God and Lord with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our mind and
love our neighbor as ourselves [Luke 10:27]? Thus, if we direct all these movements and
rhythms [motus numerosque] of our human activity to this end, we will undoubtedly be
In the final sections of De musica, Augustine expounds three final instances of reading
rhythmic equality and proportionate ordering into other aspects of creation. 1) He references the
construction of particles of earth that display “corrationality” (conrationalitas, Augustine’s
translation of ἀναλογία, in Book VI).192 2) The ordering of the elements in terms of excellence
displays an overall harmony (concordia). For example, air strives for unity with greater facility
than earth or water and is, therefore, superior, and the planets display the limit and supreme
splendor of unified bodies. 3) The entire process of deification is itself a rhythm entailing
equality, similarity, and order:
Jacobsson, trans., Aurelius Augustinus [De musica VI], 90. Augustine states the matter
more simply, in §46: “The soul maintains its order by loving with its whole self what is superior
to it, that is to say God, but its fellow souls as itself.” (Tenet ordinem ipsa tota diligens quod se
supra est, id est Deum, socias autem animas tamquam se ipsam.)
To be clear, Augustine had translated ἀναλογία as proportio earlier in his treatise, in
Book I. I discuss more thoroughly the differences between the terms λόγος (Lat. proportio, Eng.
ratio) and ἀναλογία (Lat. proportionalitas or analogia, Eng. proportion) in Chapter 5.
161 Deus autem summe bonus et summe iustus nulli inuidet pulchritudini, quae siue
damnatione animae, siue regressione, siue permansione fabricatur. Numerus autem et ab
uno incipit et aequalitate ac similitudine pulcher est et ordine copulatur. Quam ob rem,
quisquis fatetur nullam esse naturam, quae non, ut sit quidquid est, adpetat unitatem
suique similis, in quantum potest, esse conetur atque ordinem proprium uel locis, uel
temporibus, uel incorporeo quodam libramento salutem suam teneat, debet fateri ab uno
principio per aequalem illi ac similem speciem diuitiis bonitatis eius, qua inter se unum et
de uno unum carissima, ut ita dicam, caritate iunguntur, omnia facta esse atque condita
quaecumque sunt, in quantumcumque sunt.
But the supremely good and supremely just God does not look askance at any beauty,
which is created either as a consequence of the damnation or the returning or the
remaining of the soul. But the rhythm both begins from the one and is beautiful through
equality and similarity and is united in order. Therefore, whoever admits that there is no
nature that does not desire unity in order to be what it is, or that does not try, to the best
of its ability, to be similar to itself and to keep its proper order, either spatially or
temporally or in some kind of incorporeal balance, as its health, must admit that all things,
whatever they are, inasmuch as they exist, have been made and created from one origin,
through a form, equal and similar to this origin by the riches of its goodness, through
which they are united with each other as one, and, as one from the one, by the loveliest
love, so to speak.193
Jacobsson, trans., Aurelius Augustinus [De musica VI], 110.
162 In a fascinating comment at the close of this book, Augustine goes beyond the moving
planets and the soul’s quest for theosis and comments, all too briefly, on the rational and
intellectual rhythms of “the blessed and holy souls” (§58). As he later clarified in his
Retractationes, Augustine is here referring to the angels who mediate as messengers between
God and man.194 And, remembering Eriugena’s definition of musica, it is fascinating to note how
Augustine reads “a harmony of all things” in the rhythms of place that are at rest and the rhythms
of time that are in motion; the harmony consists of their ordering in progression:195
Ista certe omnia, quae carnalis sensus ministerio numeramus, et quaecumque in eis sunt,
locales numeros, qui uidentur esse in aliquo statu, nisi praecedentibus intimis in silentio
temporalibus numeris, qui sunt in motu, nec accipere possunt nес habere. Illos itidem in
temporum interuallis agiles praecedit et modificat uitalis motus seruiens Domino rerum
omnium, non temporalia habens digesta interualla numerorum suorum sed tempora
ministrante potentia, supra quam rationales et intellectuales numeri beatarum animarum
atque sanctarum legem ipsam Dei, sine qua folium de arbore non cadit, et cui nostri
capilli numerati sunt, nulla interposita natura excipientes usque ad terrena et inferna iura
Certainly, all these things that we enumerate [numeramus], by the work of carnal sense,
and all things in them, can neither receive nor possess a local rhythm [locales numeros],
Augustine, Retractiones, trans. M. Bogan, in The Fathers of the Church, vol. 60
(Washington, Catholic University of America Press, 1968) 48.
Augustine, De musica, trans. Robert Taliaferro, in The Fathers of the Church, vol. 4
(Washington, Catholic University of America Press, 1947) 378n.22.
163 which seems to be in a certain rest [aliquo statu], unless the inmost temporal rhythms,
which are in motion [motu], silently precede. Likewise, the vital movement serving the
Lord of all things precedes and modifies them in swift intervals of time, not having the
temporally arranged intervals of their rhythms [numerorum], but with a power that gives
the times, over which power the rational and intellectual rhythms [numeri] of the blessed
and holy souls, without any intervening nature, receive the law of God—without which
not a single leaf falls from a tree and for whom our hairs are counted—and transmit it to
the earthly and infernal laws.196
It is to this final portion of De musica, in which Augustine alludes to the celestial
hierarchy, that I believe Eriugena was referring when he wrote, “For the numerus of places and
times . . . precedes all things that are in them.” And it is important to note that numerus as used
by Augustine should be translated as “rhythm,” for that is the most common sense in which he
uses the term throughout De musica and in this portion. In contrast, as I demonstrate in the next
section, Eriugena uses numerus as “number,” but with implications derived from the study of
To summarize the discussion thus far, we have seen how motion and rest in Eriugena’s
definition of musica distinguish the study of music with broad applicability that includes the
music of the celestial spheres and the motions of the soul. We have noted Eriugena’s use of
Augustine’s De musica VI and, specifically, the term numerus, which, for Augustine, had
implications for anything in motion or at rest. For example, learning the criteria to judge the
Jacobsson trans., Aurelius Augustinus [De musica], 114–16.
164 movements and ordering of rhythm had implications for everything from the rhythms that please
our bodily senses to the rhythms of even the celestial hierarchy.
The harmonious ordering of the celestial hierarchy is the primary topic of Chapter 5, in
which I take up Eriugena’s translation of and commentary on Pseudo-Dionysius’s Expositiones
in Hierarchiam Caelestem. As preparation for that discussion and to build upon the material
presented thus far, I return briefly to Martianus Capella’s De Nuptiis (DN) Book IX (Harmonia),
the musical treatise Eriugena knew well and glossed extensively. There, in DN IX and associated
ninth-century glosses, we can confirm a connection between metaphysical motion, cosmic
motion, and rhythmic measure, thus highlighting a specific instance where the study of music,
soul, and cosmos intersect in ninth-century thought. We can also confirm Eriugena’s use of
numerus as “number” with associations derived from the study of musical rhythm.
Rhythmic Measure and Metaphysical Motion
At §930, in DN IX, Harmonia asserts, “My province comprises the skill of properly
modulating/regulating [bene modulandi] what is contained in both rhythmic and melodic
compositions . . . ,”197 and, at the end of §966, she addresses the topic of rhythm specifically. In
the following quotation (§966-§969), Capella uses the term numerus as ordered measures
comprising long and short durations (as it was for Augustine in De musica). Harmonia declares:
Martianus Capella, De Nuptiis, trans. William Stahl and Richard Johnson, in
Martianus Capella and the Seven Liberal Arts, vol. 2 (New York: Columbia University Press,
1977), 359. For Capella’s Latin see Martianus Capella, ed. James Willis (Leipzig: Teubner,
1983), 356: “Et quoniam officium meum est bene modulandi sollertia quae rithmicis et melicis
astructionibus continetur.” Note Capella’s use of “bene modulandi” as in Augustine’s definition
of musica quoted above.
165 Nunc rhythmos, hoc est numeros, perstringamus, quoniam ipsam quoque nostri
portionem esse non dubium est. rhythmus igitur est compositio quaedam ex sensibilibus
collata temporibus ad aliquem habitum ordinemque conexa. rursum sic definitur:
numerus est diversorum modorum ordinata conexio, tempori pro ratione modulationis
inserviens, per id quod aut efferenda vox fuerit aut premenda, et qui nos a licentia
modulationis ad artem disciplinamque constringat. interest tamen inter rhythmum et
rhythmizomenon: quippe rhythmizomenon materia est numerorum, numerus autem velut
quidam artifex aut species modulationis apponitur. omnis igitur numerus triplici ratione
[dicitur] discernitur: visu audituque vel tactu. Visu, sicut sunt ea, quae motu corporis
colliguntur; auditu, cum ad iudicium modulationis intendimus; tactu, ut ex digitis
venarum exploramus indicia. verum nobis attribuitur maxime in auditu visuque. sed
rhythmice est ars omnis in numeris, quae numeros quosdam propriae conversionis
accipiat. flexusque legitimos sortiatur. est quoque distantia inter rhythmum. metrumque
non parva, sicut posterius memorabo. sed quia visus auditusque numero dictus accedere,
hi quoque in tria itidem genera dividentur: in corporis motum, in sonorum modulandique
rationem atque in verba, quae apta modis ratio colligarit; quae cuncta sociata perfectam
faciunt cantilenam. dividitur sane numerus in oratione per syllabas, in modulatione per
arsin ac thesin; in gestu figuris determinatis schematisque completur.
Now, let us consider rhythm [rhythmos], i.e., numerus, since, without a doubt, it is a
branch of my discipline. Rhythm [rhythmus] is a grouping of times that are perceptible to
the senses and are arranged in some orderly manner. Or, numerus may be defined as the
orderly arrangement of different measures [modorum]. It is subordinate to time, in
166 accordance with the plan of modulation [pro ratione modulationis], by which the voice is
raised or lowered and which restrains us from modulatory license [a licentia
modulationis], in accordance with my discipline and art. There is a difference between
rhythm [rhythmum] and that which has become rhythmic [rhythmizomenon]. The latter is
indeed the material of rhythms [numerorum], whereas, rhythm [numerus] is considered to
be the artificer or a form of modulation [modulationis]. All rhythm [numerus] is
reasonably divided into three categories: visual, auditory, or tactile. An example of the
visual is in bodily movements [motu corporis]; of auditory, we hold as an appraisal of
modulation [modulationis]; of tactile, when we look for symptoms by feeling the pulse.
The most important categories for us are the auditory and the visual. The art of rhythmics
[rhythmice] is entirely in rhythms [numeris]; it admits certain rhythms [numeros] with
appropriate variations and selects legitimate substitutions. The difference between rhythm
and meter [rithmum metrumque] is no small one, as I shall remember [to explain] later.
Since, as has been said, rhythm [numero] involves the visual and auditory senses, these
too may be divided into three types: into bodily motion [corporis motum]; into the
planning of sounds and their modulations [modulandi]; and into words, which are
grouped by apt reason into measures [modis] and which, when combined, produce a
perfect song. Rhythm [numerus] in public speaking is divided by syllables; in modulation
[modulatione], by arsis and thesis; and in gesture [gestu], by forms and determinate
motions [schemata] that are completed.198
MacInnis, trans., Willis, Martianus Capella, 372–73. Capella defines schemata as
motion in §971.
167 A gloss in the ninth-century Anonymous commentary on the words corporis motum in
this quotation verifies an integral understanding of motion to the definition of music: “Omnis
musica in motum est.”199 Additionally, the Anonymous commentary and Eriugena’s own glosses
on DN IX also establish an application of the ordered motion in the study of musical rhythm to
the celestial spheres and to the soul. For example, in an earlier passage in DN IX, at §922,
Harmonia begins her discourse with the whirling celestial spheres and the first emanations of
souls from the One:
Dum me quippe germanam gemellamque caelo illa incogitabilis effigientiae genuisset
immensitas, sidereae revolutionis excursus atque ipsa totius molis volumina comitata,
superos incitosque fulgores modis associans numeros non reliqui. sed cum illa monas
intellectualisque lucis prima formatio animas fontibus emanantes in terrarum habitacula
rigaret, moderatrix earum iussa sum demeare. denique numeros cogitabilium motionum
totiusque voluntatis impulsus ipsa rerum dispensans congruentiam temperabam.
From the time that the immeasurable [universe] of the ineffable Creator begot me as the
twin sister of heaven, I have not forsaken numeros; having run along the sidereal courses
and accompanied the rolling motion of the entire structure assigning measures [modis
associans] to the rushing and brilliant celestial bodies. But, when the Monad and [first
hypostasis] of intellectual light was scattering the many souls that emanated from their
Teeuwen, Harmony and the Music of the Spheres, 533. The so-called Anonymous
commentary of glosses on Capella’s DN is considered to be the oldest from the Carolingian era.
This gloss tradition is the special concern of Mariken Teeuwen’s Harmony and the Music of the
Spheres in which she presents a critical edition of these glosses upon DN Books I, II, and IX.
168 original source to earthly habitations, I was ordered to descend with them to be their
mistress. It was I who designated the numeros of conceivable motions [cogitabilium
motionum] and the impulses of the whole will, blending symmetry [congruentiam] into
As for the cosmos, a gloss in the Anonymous commentary on modis associans (see
above) reads “modulationibus rithmos iungens,” thereby, coupling the ordered motions of the
heavens to the concept of rhythmic organization.201 Additionally, Eriugena himself glossed
pulsibus (modulorum machinae), i.e., the pulsating rhythms of the celestial machine, in the
preceding section (§921), as tonis motibus, “tone motion.”202
Also, in the above quotation, Harmonia is declared to have power over souls, and it is
suggested in the Anonymous commentary that this power comes from Harmonia’s sister
Arithmetica or the gods; the word moderatrix is glossed “Ego habens potestatem illarum
animarum a mea germana vel a diis.”203 (Both Eriugena and the Anonymous commentary agree
that Arithmetic is Harmony’s twin sister.) This power or rule over human souls is explained
further in a gloss on numeros (cogitabilium motionum), in the Anonymous commentary, as an
aspect of the quadrivium. In the quotation below, it is fascinating to note the consideration of
incorporeal motions of the soul, specified in the definition of musica, and that the word being
glossed is numeros:
MacInnis, trans., Willis, Martianus Capella, 353–54.
Teeuwen, Harmony and the Music of the Spheres, 477.
Lutz, Annotationes in Marcianum, 202.
Teeuwen, Harmony and the Music of the Spheres, 478.
169 NUMEROS Data est mihi potestas non solum corporum sed etiam animarum: utrum
cogitaremus nunc ista nunc illa. Arithmetica in statu, geometrica in figuris, musica in
omnium rerum corporalium et incorporalium motu, astrologia in ratione corporum
Numeros: Rule has been given to me [i.e., to Harmonia] not only of bodies, but also of
souls, whether we think now of this or that. Arithmetic considers rest, Geometry
considers shapes, Music considers the motion of all corporeal and incorporeal things,
Astrology considers the plan of the celestial bodies.204
As stated above, numerus can mean “rhythm” or “number,” and “number” appears to be
the sense in which numeros was read by this Anonymous commentator, at DN §922, since
number is inherent to the quadrivium, to which he refers, and Harmonia’s power ostensibly
comes from Arithmetica, whose discipline considers only numbers. And, while acknowledging
the ordered motions of the spheres and souls, it appears that Eriugena also understood this
instance of numeros as “number,” e.g., in the following glosses that Eriugena composed on this
same portion of DN IX:
GERMANAM GEMELLAMQUE CAELO ut intelligas concreatam caelo esse
Armoniam, aut GEMINAM GEMELLAMQUE dicit Arithmeticam et Armoniam
quoniam ex numeris et modis tota musica conficitur.
MacInnis, trans., Teeuwen, Harmony and the Music of the Spheres, 478.
170 Germanam gemellamque caelo [celestial twin sister] you should understand as created in
heaven together with Harmonia. Or he calls Arithmetic and Harmony geminam
gemellamque, because from number [numeris] and measures [modis] all music is
Eriugena’s note makes better sense, i.e., the relationship between Arithmetic and
Harmony is clearer, if numeris means number. Additionally, from Eriugena’s subsequent
comments, on §922, we learn that from numerus, considered as “number,” both musica and souls
PRIMA condicio ex quibus animarum numerositas in terrena corpora diffluere
physicorum doctrina astruit. Possumus etiam monadem et intellectualem lucem pro uno
accipere quoniam omnia ex monade in infinitum multiplicantur. FORMATIO conditio.
FONTIBUS EMANANTES id est in numeris suis fluentes; FONTIBUS hoc est numeris.
Plato siquidem in Thymaeo ex multiplicibus et superparticularibus numeris generalem
mundi animam creari docet, quae una per singulas dividitur animas, sive rationales sive
Prima, the situation from which the multitude [numerositas] of souls added an earthly
body [which will eventually] dissolve, according to the doctrine of the natural
philosophers. We are able to accept the monad and intellectual light for the One, because
all things are multiplied from the monad to infinity. Formatio, situation. Fontibus
MacInnis, trans., Lutz, Annotationes in Marcianum, 202.
171 emanantes, i.e., flowing in their numbers [numeris]. Fontibus, i.e., numbers [numeris].
Accordingly, Plato, in Timaeus, taught that from composite and superparticular numbers
[numeris] the World Soul was created, from which unity individual souls are divided,
whether rational or irrational.206
In conclusion, although Eriugena’s reading of numerus appears to be as “number” (and
specifically, ratio) in this gloss, and that sense does fit his use of the term in Periphyseon I when
quoting Augustine (“For the numerus of places and times … precedes all things that are in
them”), a musical understanding of rhythm is not absent. Specifically, Eriugena uses Augustine’s
idea of overall harmony achieved by the proportionate ordering of motions.
I turn next to Periphyseon III, in which Eriugena describes the creation of the world in all
its visible and invisible complexity, using examples from the qualities of numbers and using
arguments derived from Augustine’s De musica VI, which he quotes again. Indeed, throughout
Periphyseon III, Eriugena employs the language of proportionate measure and ordered motion,
concepts that we have seen are articulated in the discipline of music for rhythm.
Periphyseon Book III
In Periphyseon Book III, Eriugena describes “nature that is created and does not create,”
and, beginning with the Primordial Causes, he advances through the topics of the Created Effects
and Creation from Nothing. At §630, Eriugena explains the progression of all things from God to
base matter and notes that participation characterizes the entire sequence, except for God, who is
merely participated in as source. For example, in the following quotation, participation along the
chain of being is described in terms of concordant numerical proportions:
MacInnis, trans., Lutz, Annotationes in Marcianum, 202.
172 Participatio uero in omnibus intelligitur. Vt enim inter numerorum terminos (hoc est inter
ipsos numeros sub una ratione constitutos) similes proportiones, ita inter omnes ordines
naturales a summo usque deorsum participations similes sunt, quibus iunguntur. Et
quemadmodum in proportionibus numerorum proportionalitates sunt (hoc est
proportionum similes rationes), eodem modo in naturalium ordinationum
participationibus mirabiles atque ineffabiles armonias constituit creatrix omnium
sapientia, quibus omnia in unam quandam concordiam, seu amicitiam, seu pacem, seu
amorem, seu quocunque modo rerum omnium adunatio significari possit, conueniunt.
Sicut enim numerorum concordia proportionis, proportionum uero collatio
proportionalitatis, sic ordinum naturalium distributio participationis nomen,
distributionum uero copulatio amoris generalis accepit, qui omnia ineffabili quadam
amicitia in unum colligit. Est igitur participatio non cuiusdam partis assumptio, sed
diuinarum dationum et donationum a summo usque deorsum per superiores ordines
But participation is understood of all. For, as between the terms of numbers [numerorum],
that is, among the numbers when they are constituted under one principle, the proportions
are similar, so between all the natural orders from the highest to the lowest the
participations by which they are related are similar; and, as between the numerical
proportions [proportionibus numerorum] there are the proportionalities
[proportionalitates], that is to say, similar principles of proportion; in the same way, the
Wisdom, that is, the Creator of all things, has constituted marvelous and ineffable
Periphyseon III, CCCM 163, 18–19.
173 harmonies between the participations of the natural orders, by which all things come
together into one concord or amity or peace or love or whatever other name can signify
the unification of all things. For, just as the concord of numbers [numerorum concordia]
has been given the name proportion, but the bringing together of the proportions is called
proportionality, so the distribution of the natural orders has been given the name of
participation, but the bringing together of the distributions is called universal Love, which
in a kind of ineffable amity gathers all things into one. Participation, therefore, is not the
taking of some part, but the distribution of the divine gifts and graces from the highest to
the lowest through the higher orders to the lower.208
Eriugena’s description of the “natural orders” follows closely Augustine’s argument, in
De musica §56. For example, Augustine had described participants in the chain of being as
keeping a balanced, proper order. So too, Eriugena notes a constituted order, and, like Augustine,
sees the chain as communicating grace and goodness to all its parts, goodness in their existence
and grace in their beauty. For Augustine and Eriugena, the order of the entire sequence is
proportionate and equal, thus producing a concord that encompasses every part. Additionally,
this encompassing concord, for both Augustine and Eriugena, is described in terms of love.
Furthermore, Augustine emphasized an ordered motion, a rhythm within the system from
start to finish, but Eriugena, though acknowledging movement within the sequence of the chain
of being, focuses more on the proportions measurable between the individual parts of the whole
system, as in his account of the cosmic system, described in Chapter 3. For example, 1) in his De
musica, Augustine wrote, at §42, “Thus, the movements that the soul exerts, with the souls that
Sheldon-Williams, trans., Periphyseon III, Scriptores Latini Hiberniae 11, 53–55.
174 adhere to it and are subject to it, are similar to the progressing [rhythms].”209 2) Nearing the end
of Periphyseon III, while specifically citing the progressions and hierarchy of numerus in
Augustine’s De musica, Eriugena’s sense for numerus is that of individuated particulars, not
rhythms (§731–2.). Indeed, number (numerus) in the sense of individual or particular is very
important to Eriugena’s argument throughout Periphyseon III, especially to show how all things
are both created and eternal; by analogy, numbers are eternal in the monad and created in their
Eriugena’s reliance on Augustine’s dialogue on rhythm is also evident in the following
quotation, which contains the occurrence of organicum melos, explained in Chapter 3. In this
portion, Eriugena describes a harmonic order to all things in the relation of similar and dissimilar
Proinde pulchritudo totius uniuersitatis conditae similium et dissimilium mirabili quadam
armonia constituta est, ex diuersis generibus uariisque formis, differentibus quoque
substantiarum et accidentium ordinibus in unitatem quandam ineffabilem compacta. Vt
enim organicum melos ex diuersis uocum qualitatibus et quantitatibus conficitur dum
uiritim separatimque sentiuntur longe a se discrepantibus intentionis et remissionis
proportionibus segregatae, dum uero sibi inuicem coaptantur secundum certas
rationabilesque artis musicae regulas per singulos tropos naturalem quandam dulcedinem
reddentibus, ita uniuersitatis concordia ex diuersis naturae unius subdiuisionibus a se
MacInnis, trans., Jacobsson, Aurelius Augustinus, 88: “Motus igitur, quos exerit anima
de inhaerentibus sibi et subditis animis, progressoribus illis sunt similes.”
175 inuicem dum singulariter inspiciuntur dissonantibus, iuxta conditoris uniformem
uoluntatem coadunata est.210
Furthermore, the beauty of the whole established universe consists of a marvelous
harmony of like and unlike, in which the diverse genera and various species and the
different orders of substances and accidents are composed into an ineffable unity. For, as
organicum melos is made up of a variety of qualities and quantities of sounds, which,
when they are heard individually and separately, are distinguished from one another by
widely differing proportions of rising and falling (intentionis et remissionis),211 but, when
they are attuned to each other, in accordance with the fixed and rational rules of the art of
music, give forth a natural sweetness through each piece of music, so the harmony of the
universe is established in accordance with the uniform will of its Creator out of the
diverse subdivisions of its one nature, which, when regarded individually, clash with one
Periphyseon III, CCCM 163, 29.
Here, the mention of rising and falling (intentionis et remissionis) is reminiscent of the
opening section in Musica enchiriadis: “Ptongi autem non quicumque dicuntur soni, sed qui
legitimis ab invicem spaciis melo sunt apti. Eorum quidem sic et intendendo et remittendo
naturaliter ordo continuatur, ut semper quattuor et quattuor eiusdem conditionis sese
consequantur.” (“Not all sounds (soni) are called tones (ptongi), only those that are suitable for
melody by proper spacing from each other. A series of them are joined, naturally ascending and
descending, so that they follow each another, always in similarly constituted groups of four.)
(MacInnis, trans., Musica enchiriadis, Thesaurus Musicarum Latinarum, accessed 10 March
2014, http://www.chmtl.indiana.edu/tml/9th-11th/MUSENCI_TEXT.html. Cf., Erickson, trans.,
Musica Enchiriadis and Scholica Enchiriadis, 1-2.)
Sheldon-Williams, trans., Periphyseon III, SLH 11, 69–71.
176 As Teeuwen notes, polyphonic practice is described in this passage, though no specific
technique can be ascertained.213 Eriugena’s argument is that, as sung polyphony involves the
regulation of diverse parts, differences and apparent oppositions throughout the universe are
harmonized when considered in relation to each other; i.e., individual proportions must be
considered in terms of the entire system. Similarly, for Augustine, the beauty of rhythmicity,
however discerned, is in its equality and equally measured intervals and by considering the
system as a whole. For example, at §30, in De musica, Augustine wrote:
Si quis, uerbi gratia, in amplissimarum pulcherrimarumque aedium uno aliquo angulo
tamquam statua conlocetur, pulchritudinem illius fabricae sentire non poterit, cuius et
ipse pars erit, nec uniuersi exercitus ordinem miles inacie ualet intueri, et in quolibet
poemate si quanto spatio syllabae sonant, tanto uiuerent atque sentirent, nullo modo illa
numerositas et contexti opens pulchritudo eis placeret, quam totam perspicere atque
adprobare non possent, cum de ipsis singulis praetereuntibus fabricata esset atque
perfecta. Ita peccantem hominem ordinauit Deus turpem non turpiter.
If someone, for example, were placed as a statue in a corner of an enormous and
extraordinarily beautiful building, he would not be able to perceive the beauty of that
construction, of which he himself would be a part, nor is a soldier in the line able to see
the order of the whole army, and, if the syllables in some poem were to live and perceive
for as long a time as they sound, they would in no way be delighted by the rhythmicality
and beauty of the composition of the work, the beauty of which they would not be able to
Teeuwen, Harmony and the Music of the Spheres, 335.
177 overlook and approve of in its totality, since it would be constructed and perfected by the
individual, transient syllables themselves. In this way, God disposed of the sinful man as
a disgraceful one, but not disgracefully.214
As a final example from Periphyseon III and to conclude this chapter, consider the
following quotation, in which Eriugena speculates about the end of the world. Rather than
following other philosophers, who held the material world to be eternal in its materiality,
Eriugena envisaged a renewed heavens and earth whose perfection is achieved “by a new
equalization of its parts”:
In hoc nanque sensus eorum uariatur, quibusdam affirmantibus statum mutabilium
futurum, quibusdam uero naturalem motum elementorum semper non cessaturum; illi
quidem sequentes quod scriptum est “Erunt omnia quieta,” et hoc de statu mutabilium
intelligentes, illi uero “Concentum caeli quis dormire faciet?” de aeterno mutabilium
motu dictum esse accipientes. Armonia siquidem caelestis sine motu aetheriae spherae
omniumque siderum quomodo poterit concinere, cum musica semper in motu sit,
quemadmodum geometria in statu? Terrenam quoque molem suam propriam quantitatem
semper habituram indubitanter affirmant, sequentes quod scriptum est “Generatio uenit,
generatio uadit, terra uero in aeternum stat,” eo excepto quod superficies eius undique
planabitur, ut pulchrior quam nunc est efficiatur, ac ueluti noua quadam partium
aequalitate renouata, non ut intereat quod nunc est, sed ut mutata in melius quantitas eius
et aequalitas permaneat. Quod etiam de caelo uolunt intelligi, hoc est, quod eius
Jacobsson, trans., Aurelius Augustinus [De musica VI], 67–70.
178 pulchritudo, in qua nunc sensibus corporeis arridet, in fine mundi cumulabitur absque
ullo globatae suae figurae stellataeque picturae interitu, quoniam scriptum est, ut aiunt:
“Erit caelum nouum et terra noua.”
On the other hand, in this their sense differs, for certain ones assert a future situation of
changeable things, yet others argue that the natural motion of the elements will never
cease. The former follow what was written, “All will be quiet,” and understand this in
reference to the stability of changeable things. However, the latter take “Who will make
the harmony of heaven to sleep?” to have been said concerning to the eternal motion of
changeable things. Accordingly, how will celestial harmony be able to sound without the
motion of the ethereal sphere and of all the constellations, when music is always in
motion just as geometry is at rest? Moreover, they promptly declare that the earthly mass
will always possess its proper quantity, following the text, “A generation comes, a
generation goes, but earth remains for ever” [Ecclesiastes 1:4], with the exception that its
outward appearance is everywhere in flux, so that it may become more beautiful than it
now is. And it is renewed as though by a new equalization of its parts, not so that what
now exists shall perish, but so that its quality and equality remains, changed into
something better. And this they think should be applied to the heaven also, that is, that its
beauty, which is now apparent to the bodily senses, shall at the end of the world be
concentrated, without any loss of its global shape or ornament of stars, since it is written,
according to them, “There shall be a new heaven and a new earth” [Revelation 21:1].215
MacInnis, trans., Periphyseon, CCCM, vol. 163, 44. The first two Biblical quotations
in this passage, not cross-referenced, are most likely 2 Chronicles 14:7 and Job 38:37
179 In conclusion, it is evident that Eriugena’s concepts of equality and proportionate
ordering in the case of the soul, cosmos, and the “natural orders” cohere with the study of
musical rhythm in texts studied by him in the ninth century. But more needs to be said about the
nature of proportionate ordering; specifically, what is the nature of this lovely proportionality
observed throughout the chain of being? How is it that the two extremes of a system (spatially or
metaphysically) can be considered unified in a way that constitutes harmony? And what is the
sort of mediation Eriugena (following Augustine) intended in Periphyseon III, in §630, when he
As between the numerical proportions [proportionibus numerorum], there are the
proportionalities [proportionalitates], that is to say, similar principles of proportion; in
the same way, the Wisdom, that is, the Creator of all things, has constituted marvelous
and ineffable harmonies between the participations of the natural orders, by which all
things come together into one concord or amity or peace or love or whatever other name
can signify the unification of all things.
respectively. In the 2 Chronicles passage, Eriugena is probably referencing a theological point
derived from the verse in question, hence the change of sunt to erunt from the Vulgate, in his
180 CHAPTER 5
ERIUGENA’S EXPOSITIONES IN HIERARCHIAM CAELESTEM
Using Periphyseon and Eriugena’s commentary on Martianus Capella’s De Nuptiis, we
have thus far observed the interreferentiality of music, soul, and cosmos inherent in Eriugena’s
expansive definition of musica: “Music is the discipline discerning by the light of reason the
harmony of all things in natural proportions [in naturalibus proportionibus] which are either in
motion or at rest.”216 As a concluding exploration of Eriugena’s concept of the “harmony of all
things” and the wide applicability of the ars musica, this chapter will address Eriugena’s final
intellectual contribution, his commentary on Pseudo-Dionysius’s Celestial Hierarchy
(accomplished between 865–70 CE) in terms of the “natural proportions” mentioned in
Eriugena’s definition of music.
As explained in Chapter 4, for Augustine and Eriugena, everything in the chain of being
is related and proportionately organized, so that the resulting concord encompasses every part. In
order to understand this total harmony, though, we must specify the mediating nature of
proportions found throughout the entire system from literature Eriugena knew and studied. Using
Calcidius’s commentary on Plato’s Timaeus and Boethius’s De institutione musica, I will
describe proportional mediation in terms of the physical elements and as a musical theoretical
Pseudo-Dionysius and The Celestial Hierarchy
It was universally accepted in Eriugena’s day that the author of The Celestial Hierarchy
(CH) was Dionysius the Areopagite, a first-century convert by St. Paul (cf., Acts 17:34) who was
Periphyseon, CCCM 161, 48 (PL122:475B): “Musica est omnium quae sunt siue in
motu siue in statu in naturalibus proportionibus armoniam rationis lumine dinoscens disciplina.”
181 eventually made Bishop of Athens and that the work was truly addressed to St. Timothy, Bishop
of Ephesus. For Eriugena, therefore, the treatise was connected to the Apostolic age and
possessed great authority. For example, Dionysius most likely relayed insights furnished from
The name Pseudo-Dionysius now designates the writer of CH, since it is now accepted
that he actually lived several centuries after Paul and was possibly Syrian.218 The importance of
this anonymous Pseudo-Dionysius arises from the acceptance of his writings, for most of the
Middle Ages, as from the actual Dionysius and from his successful synthesis of Neoplatonic
philosophy and Christianity. For example, as for Proclus, every effect remains in its cause,
proceeds from it, and converts to it (cf., Elementatio theologica, Prop. 35), so too for Pseudo-
The issue over whether the Dionysius of Acts 17 and eventual Bishop of Athens is the
same person as St. Denis, missionary to the Gauls and martyred Bishop of Paris, is tricky. A
generation before Eriugena, at the instigation of Louis the Pious, the scholar Hilduin translated
the manuscript containing the Celestial Hierarchies (a translation Eriugena knew and used) and
wrote a biography of Dionysius conflating the two characters; i.e., Dionysius was made Bishop
of Athens and was later sent by the Pope as a missionary to the Gauls. As Paul Rorem
demonstrates, Eriugena was more cautious and never contradicts Hilduin’s account, but leaves
the question open that St. Denis might have been a separate person, cf., Eriugena’s Commentary
on the Dionysian Celestial Hierarchy (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 2005),
8ff. A further complication for Eriugena was that both Charles II (Eriugena’s patron) and
Charles’s father, Louis the Pious, were particularly devoted to St. Denis and intimately
connected to the Abbey of St. Denis.
Kevin Corrigan and L. Michael Harrington, “Pseudo-Dionysius,” The Stanford
Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2011 Edition), ed. Edward Zalta, <http://plato.stanford.edu>
(accessed December 20, 2013). Following convention, I will refer to Pseudo-Dionysius in the
182 Dionysius, everything is connected vertically in a sequence of abiding, procession, and return.219
Similarly, for Neoplatonists, there is a graded, hierarchical ordering of all things from the most
universal to the most particular with each participant containing properties of other participants
either more generally or particularly; Pseudo-Dionysius expresses this idea in terms of
participation between members within the angelic hierarchy.
The Greek codex containing Pseudo-Dionysius’s works, used by Eriugena and Hilduin
before him, was the gift of Byzantine Emperor Michael II to Louis the Pious (currently Paris,
Bibliothèque nationale de France, Greek 437). It was immediately placed in the Abbey of Saint
Denis, presumably due to the supposed attribution of the text to St. Denis.220 Paris, Bibliothèque
nationale de France, Greek 437 was the only source available to Eriugena for translation, and,
with only one text to consult, he faced several interpretive challenges, mostly due to scribal
errors in the manuscript.221 As for the manuscript tradition of Eriugena’s Expositiones in
Corrigan and Harrington, “Pseudo-Dionysius,” (accessed December 20, 2013).
Paul Rorem, Eriugena’s Commentary on the Dionysian Celestial Hierarchy (Toronto:
Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies, 2005), 21.
Cf., Eriugena’s Commentary on the Dionysian Celestial Hierarchy in which Rorem
outlines Eriugena’s translation philosophy and explains his brilliant workarounds for what we
now know to be copyist errors, 21ff. Interestingly, Rorem stresses that in his commentary
“[Eriugena] did not openly challenge the integrity of the text. Although on one rare occasion he
acknowledged that the copyist might have erred, he nevertheless struggled valiantly to make
sense of every reading as it stood” (21). It is evident that Eriugena had trouble translating
Pseudo-Dionysius. In a letter to Charles II he wrote about the task, “Opus ualde, ut opinamur,
anfractuosum, longeque a modernis sensibus remotum, multis inuium, paucis apertum, non
solum propter antiquitatem, uerem etiam caelestium altitudinem mysteriorum.” [The work is
great, as might be supposed, tortuous, far removed from modern senses, many places are
183 Hierarchiam Caelestem, no complete copy was available until the discovery of Douai,
Bibliothèque municipale, 202 (s.XII), in 1950, by H. Dondaine.222 Douai, Bibliothèque
municipale, 202 contains about a quarter of Eriugena’s entire work unavailable elsewhere, i.e.,
most of Chapters 3–7.223
The process Eriugena invariably followed for his commentary on CH was to 1) present a
line or two from his very literal translation of Pseudo-Dionysius’s text, rendered earlier in his
career, before writing Periphyseon,224 2) paraphrase that translation, often with equivalent
terminology, and 3) exposit the text, interpreting its content.
The fifteen chapters of CH can be outlined as follows: Chapter 1 introduces the treatise
and the nature of divine illumination. Chapter 2 discusses the use of names to describe God and
angelic beings. Chapter 3 defines the nature of hierarchy, and Chapter 4 describes the celestial
hierarchy. Chapter 5 explains what the term angel signifies. Chapter 6 labels the nine ranks of
angels, which are explained more fully in Chapters 7-9. The hierarchy of angels are 1) Seraphim,
Cherubim, and Thrones, 2) Lordships, Powers, and Authorities, and 3) Principalities, Archangels,
and Angels. Chapter 10 repeats a summary of the angelic hierarchies and their characteristics.
Chapter 11 explains how the common term “celestial powers” applies to all the hierarchies.
inaccessible, few ways open, not only because of the antiquity of the work, but also because of
the height of the celestial mysteries (MacInnis, trans., quoted in CCCM 31, pg. ix)].
Rorem, Eriugena’s Commentary, x.
J. Barbet, ed., Johannis Scoti Erivgenae Expositiones in Ierarchiam Coelestem, in
Corpvs Christianorvm Continuatio Mediaevalis (Turnhout: Brepols, 1975), vol. 31, xii.
Concerning the literal nature of Eriugena’s translation, Rorem writes, “Such fidelity
even to the order of words in the source language is the dominant characteristic of Eriugena’s
translation, for better and for worse” (Eriugena’s Commentary, 52). All caps are used for
Eriugena’s earlier literal translation in the Barbet edition of Eriugena’s commentary.
184 Chapter 12 extends the angelic hierarchies to include humans. Chapter 13 describes how it is that
the prophet Isaiah was purified by a seraph, one of the higher ranks. Chapter 14 explores the
numbers of angels presented in the Bible, and Chapter 15 presents the various physical
appearances angels are said to take.225
As stated above, proportional mediation was a fundamental concept for PseudoDionysius as he described the Celestial Hierarchy of angels spanning the spiritual distance
between God and man, and this significance was not lost on Eriugena as he commented on CH.
In order to understand the full metaphysical implications of proportional mediation, the
following section outlines instances of its use in Calcidius’s commentary on Plato’s Timaeus, in
which he describes the construction of the cosmic body and soul.
Proportional Mediation in Calcidius’s Commentary on Plato’s Timaeus
The concept of proportional mediation is fundamental to the ancient understanding of the
harmony of the spheres, and it is seen clearly in how Calcidius explains Plato’s description of the
physical elements in the cosmos. To begin with, the divine architect established two opposite
elements of fire and earth along with the principles for how they are to interact while providing
an enduring coherence to the entire structure. Between fire and earth, the architect inserted two
new elements, air and water, which share characteristics with each other and the extreme
elements. The proportional nature of this mediation is described in the following quotation from
§§21-22 of Calcidius’s commentary:
Quare si inter ignem et terram nulla est in specie et uelut in uultu similitudo, quaerenda
erit in naturis ac qualitatibus ipsorum elementorum iuxta quas faciunt aliquid aut
Corrigan and Harrington, “Pseudo-Dionysius,” (accessed December 20, 2013).
185 patiuntur et in his proprietatibus ex quibus utriusque elementi uis et germanitas apprime
designatur. Sunt igitur tam ignis quam terrae multae quidem et aliae proprietates, sed
quae uel maxime uim earum proprietatemque declarent, nimirum hae: ignis quidem
acumen, quod est acutus et penetrans, deine quod est tener et delicata quadam subtilitate,
tum quod est mobilis et semper in motu, terrae vero obtunsitas, quod est retunsa, quod
corpulenta, quod semper immobilis. Hae uero naturae licet sint contrariae, habent tamen
aliquam ex ipsa contrarietate parilitatem—tam enim similia similibus quam dissimilia
dissimilibus comparantur—et haec est analogia, id est ratio continui competentis: quod
enim est acumen aduersum obtunsitatem, hoc subtilitas iuxta corpulentiam, et quod
subtilitas iuxta corpulentiam, hoc mobilitas aduersus immobilitatem ... Si enim uicinum
igni elementum quod sit et ex quibus conflatum uoluerimus inquirere, sumemus ignis
quidem de proximo duas uirtutes, subtilitatem et mobilitatem, unam uero terrae, id est
obtunsitatem, et inuenietur genitura secundi elementi quod est subter ignem, id est aeris;
est enim aer obtunsus subtilis mobilis. Rursumque si eius elementi quod est uicinum
terrae, id est aquae, genituram consideremus, sumemus duas quidem terrae uirtutes, id est
obtunsitatem et corpulentiam, unam uero ignis, id est motum ... Conseruatur autem hoc
pacto analogia quoque geometrica iuxta rationem continui competentis; ut enim ignis
aduersum aera, sic aer aduersum aquam et demum aqua iuxta terram.
Therefore, if there is no similarity between fire and earth in appearance and, so to speak,
countenance, it should be sought in those natures and qualities of those elements
according to which they manifest some activity or passivity and in those characteristics
through which the power and affinity of the elements are especially designated. There are
186 many other properties of fire and earth, but those that greatly declare their power and
characteristics are especially, of fire, acuity—since it is sharp and penetrating, rarefied in
a certain delicate subtlety and mobile, always in motion, but of earth, obtuseness—since
it is blunt, heavy, and eternally immobile. Although these natures are indeed contraries,
they possess a certain equality through that very contrariety—for similars are compared
to similars as much as dissimilars to dissimilars—and this is analogy [analogia], i.e., the
principle of continuous progression. As acuity stands in respect to bluntness, so does
fineness stand in relation to heaviness, and, as fineness stands in relation to heaviness, so
does mobility in respect of immobility … If we wish to examine what is the adjacent
element to fire and of what properties it consists, we shall take two powers of fire in the
next position, fineness and mobility, and one from earth, bluntness. The generation of air,
the second element below fire, will be discovered, since air is blunt, fine, and mobile.
Again, if we examine the generation of water, that element which is adjacent to earth, we
shall take two powers of earth, bluntness and heaviness, and one of fire, motion . . . A
geometrical analogy [analogia quoque geometrica], also according to the principle of
continuous progression, is preserved by this arrangement: as fire is in relation to air, so is
air to water, and, finally, water to earth.226
The nature of the proportional progression that Calcidius calls analogia is continuous and
geometrical. It is continuous in that there is a progression involving multiple elements, and it is
geometrical in that while the two extremes are exact opposites, the sequence of participants in
MacInnis, trans., J. Waszink, ed., Timaeus: A Calcidio Translatus Commentarioque
Instructus (Leiden: Brill, 1962), 71-72.
187 between possess the same ratio; i.e., the relation of the first and second is the same as the second
to the third, and so on.227 This continuous progression of characteristics within the elements is
diagrammed in Table 1.
Table 1: Proportional Mediation of the Physical Elements
Along with this description of proportional mediation between the elements of the
physical world, Calcidius also explains a comparable structure for the accompanying World Soul.
At §34B, in Timaeus, Plato describes how the soul was fashioned before the physical world as a
perfect, intermediate blending of two extreme states of being, same and other. The architect then
divided a portion of the psychic substance in two ways, each producing a different geometrical
mean, 1:2::2:4::4:8 and 1:3::3:9::9:27. Further divisions result in proportions that Plato’s readers
would have immediately recognized as the intervals of the Pythagorean scale. Plato wrote,
Here’s how he began to make the division. First, he took away one portion from all of
what he had, and, after this portion, he proceeded to take away its double, and, in turn, a
third portion, half as much again as the second and three times the first, and a fourth,
Stephen Gersh, Concord in Discourse: Harmonics and Semiotics in Late Classical
and Early Medieval Platonism (New York: Mouton de Gruyter, 1996), 130.
188 double the second, and a fifth, three times the third, and a sixth portion, eight times the
first, and a seventh, twenty-seven times the first. After this, he proceeded to fill up the
double and triple intervals by cutting off still more portions from the original mixture;
and he put them in the intermediate positions, between the portions he already had, so as
to have two means within each interval—a mean that exceeds one extreme and is
exceeded by the other by the same fractional part, and another mean that exceeds one
extreme by a number equal to the amount by which it is exceeded by the other extreme.
And, since there arose from these bonds new intervals within those he already had
(intervals of 3:2, 4:3, and 9:8), he went about filling up all the 4:3 intervals with intervals
of 9:8, leaving in each of them a fractional part. And this leftover interval that
corresponded to the part had its terms in the numerical ratio of 256 to 243. That, in fact,
is how the mixture from which he’d been making these cuts at last had all been spent.228
Aside from Plato’s fascinating mention of tones (9:8) and even semitones (256:243), it is
important to note in this passage a need to mediate between two extremes and the resulting
sequences of ratios which display principles of analogy similar to the physical elements; the
sequences are continuous, containing multiple elements, and geometrical, the larger, structural
ratios remain the same. In explaining Plato’s text, Calcidius wrote that the three-dimensional
nature of the physical world is, in fact, a byproduct of the World Soul, for the sets of ratios
Plato’s Timaeus, trans. Peter Kalkavage (Newburyport: Focus Publishing, 2001), 6465.
189 discerned in the World Soul are also used for generating three-dimensional objects, such as a
Additionally, to demonstrate the harmonic nature of both the cosmic soul and body,
Calcidius applies the musical ratios described by Plato in regard to the soul to the physical
elements and points out again the paralleled mediation between two extremes:
Horum numerorum interualla numeris aliis contexi uolebat, ut esset in animae
textu corporis similitudo. Itaque limitibus constitutis, uno sex, altero duodecim
qui est duplex, duabus medietatibus, octo et nouem, sex et duodecim limitum
interuallum continuauit epitrita, item sescuplari potentia, perindeque ut inter ignis
limitem terraeque alterum limitem insertis aeris et aquae materiis mundi corpus
continuatum est ita numerorum potentiis insertis, ut tamquam elementis
materiisque membra animae intellegibilia conecterentur essetque aliqua inter
animam corpusque similitudo.
For example, as Calcidius explains in the quotation below, two single points make a
line, two lines makes a surface, four surfaces make a cube: “Apex ergo numerorum singularitas
sine ullis partibus, ut geometrica nota; cuius duplum linea, sine latitudine longitudo; lineae
duplum superficies, quae est prolixitas cum latitudine; cuius duplum cubus, corpus per longum
latum profundumque diuisum, bis duo bis, quod est octo.” (Therefore, the summit of numbers is
a singularity without any parts, as with a geometrical point, two of which [points] make a line
without latitude or longitude. Two lines make a surface, which is an extension with latitude. Two
[such surfaces] make a cube, a body distinguished by length, breadth, and depth: two times two
times two, which is eight. (MacInnis, trans., Timaeus: A Calcidio, 83, §33.)
190 [The artificer] wished these numerical intervals to be interwoven with other
numbers, so that there might be a likeness of body in the fabric of soul. He
established as the limits, six and twelve (a duple relationship) with two
intermediaries [duabus medietatibus], eight and nine. He joined the interval
between the extremes of six and twelve with the force of the ratios 4:3 [epitrita]
and 3:2 [sescuplari], just as the world’s body has been connected through
insertion of the elements air and water between the limits of fire and earth. Thus,
by the insertion of numerical potencies, the intelligible parts of soul could be
joined, as if by elements and substances, and there be a likeness between soul and
Applying the numbers as Calcidius directs in this instance (fire-6, air-8, water-9, earth12) produces the following relationships between the elements which are, of course, Pythagorean
(12:9:8:6),231 but not geometrical as he had earlier explained: fire to air = 3:4, air to water = 8:9,
water to earth = 3:4.232 The discrepancy is not bothersome; rather, we readily see the flexibility
with which musical ratios are used to make sense of the material and immaterial world and the
apparent necessity felt by Plato and his commentator that these proportions mediate predictably
MacInnis, trans., Timaeus: A Calcidio, 144-45, §92.
Cf., Boethius, De institutione musica, trans. Calvin Bower (Newhaven: Yale
University Press, 1989), 19. At Book I:10 Boethius explains how Pythagoras discovered the
consonances (diapason, diapente, and diatessaron).
Gersh, Concord, 137.
Gersh, Concord, 137.
191 To understand how proportional mediation was described in a specifically musical
context and to better define our terms, the following section examines the words proportio,
proportionalitas, and medius using Boethius’s De institutione musica.
Proportionalitas in Boethius’s De institutione musica
It is clear that Boethius knew the portion of Timaeus quoted above which describes
Plato’s harmonic accounting for the creation of the World Soul; near the beginning of De
institutione musica (DIM) he wrote, “What Plato rightfully said can likewise be understood: the
soul of the universe was joined together according to musical concords.”234 The musical
concords specified by Plato and referenced here by Boethius are the ratios arising from the
Pythagorean series 12:9:8:6. For Boethius, understanding proportion or ratio was vital to any
discussion of music, so he addressed the topic thoroughly in DIM in terms of means. At Book
II:12, quoted below, he explained combinations of ratios and the classical Pythagorean means
arising between them: the arithmetic, geometric, and harmonic:235
Since we have discussed the matters concerning ratios [proportionibus] that had to be
considered, we should now discuss means [medietatibus]. A ratio [proportio] is a certain
comparison of two terms measured against themselves. By terms, I mean numerical
wholes. A proportion [proportionalitas] is a collection of equal ratios [proportionum]. A
proportion [proportionalitas] consists of at least three terms, for when a first term related
to a second holds the same ratio [proportionem] as the second to the third, then this is
Boethius, trans. Calvin Bower, De institutione musica, 2.
Bower explains how the three Pythagorean means were important to ancient music
theory, e.g., the arithmetic mean is applied to ratios of the diatonic division to calculate
chromatic and enharmonic genera (Boethius, De institutione musica, xxxii-iv).
192 called a “proportion” [proportionalitas], and the “mean” [medius] among these three
terms is that which is second. There is, then, a threefold classification of middle terms
joining these ratios together. Either the difference between the lesser term and the mean
term is equal to that of the mean and the largest, but the ratio is not equal in the numbers
l:2:3, for example, unity alone is the difference between 1 and 2 as well as 2 and 3, but
the ratio is not equal (2:1 forms a duple whereas 3:2 forms a sesquialter)—or an equal
ratio is established between both pairs, but not an equal difference—in the numbers l:2:4,
for example, 2:1 is duple, as is 4:2, but the difference between 4 and 2 is 2, whereas, that
between 2 and unity is 1. There is a third class of mean which is characterized by neither
the same ratios nor the same differences, but is derived in such a way that the largest term
is related to the smallest in the same way that the difference between the larger terms is
related to the difference between the lesser terms—in the numbers 3:4:6 … [A]mong
these three means, only the geometric is strictly and properly called a “proportion”
[proportionalitas], since it is the only one totally constructed according to equal ratios
[proportionibus]. Nevertheless, we use the same word indiscriminately, calling the others
“proportions” [proportionalitates] as well.236
In this excerpt, Boethius was clear that a ratio [proportio, Gr. λόγος] involves two terms
and that a proportion [proportionalitas, Gr. ἀναλογία] involves multiple terms producing a mean
[medius]. Furthermore, we see that for Boethius the medius is properly called a “proportion” only
Bower, trans., Boethius, De institutione musica, Book II:12, 65-66. Latin insertions
are taken from the Friedlein edition of DIM.
193 in the case of a geometric collection of equal ratios (e.g., 1:2:4), but that does not limit applying
the term for the so-called harmonic (e.g., 3:4:6) and arithmetic (e.g., 1:2:3) means.237
It must be remembered that the concept Boethius here calls proportionalitas can also be
rendered in Latin as conrationalitas (as in Augustine’s De musica VI)238 and analogia (as in
Calcidius, quoted above). Having thus observed the terms used to describe mediation between
multiple ratios in texts known and studied by Eriugena (e.g., Calcidius/Plato and Boethius) and
understanding their flexibility and ambiguity of use, we should consider Eriugena’s own use of
proportional mediation beginning with Periphyseon III, in which he describes the division of
waters above and below the firmament in Genesis 1 as between the primordial causes, the
transcendent state of the elements, and the immanent state of elemental qualities.
Proportionalitas as Creative Principle
In Chapter 4, I mentioned Eriugena’s theory of the elements in Periphyseon I, which is
clearly similar to Calcidius’s, i.e., the whirling stars and Earth are set as extremes proportionally
mediated by air and water. My intention, in Chapter 4, was to demonstrate the significance of
ordered motion and rest in the elements, but we should note Eriugena’s terminology; whereas,
Calcidius used the term analogia, in this instance, Eriugena prefers proportionalitas:
Cf. Boethius, De institutione musica, 65n.34. Bower points out that Boethius’s
descriptions in this section of DIM are actually clearer than in his treatise on Arithmetic.
Augustine, De musica VI, §57, 112. Confirming that he meant analogia, in the cited
portion of De musica, Augustine describes the cube as an example of conrationalitas—a
geometric object that perfectly and simply expresses a geometrical analogy (as Calcidius
likewise explained in the portion of his commentary considered above).
194 nam grauitas moueri nescit – et est in medio mundi constituta extremumque ac medium
obtinet terminum; aetheria uero spatia propterea ineffabili uelocitate semper circa media
uoluuntur quoniam in natura leuitatis constituta sunt, quae stare ignorat et extremum
mundi uisibilis obtinent finem. Duo uero in medio elementa constituta, aqua uidelicet et
aer, proportionali moderamine inter grauitatem et leuitatem assidue mouentur.
For heaviness has no motion and is established in the center of the world holding the
extreme and central boundary. The ethereal regions always revolve around the center
with unspeakable velocity, since they are established with the nature of lightness. They
know no rest and hold the extreme boundary of the visible world. But the two elements
established in the middle [medio], water and air, move constantly with a proportional
moderation [proportionali moderamine] between heaviness and lightness.239
In Periphyseon III, Eriugena presents another accounting of the elements, this time in
terms of the qualities hot, cold, dry, and wet. In this instance, he notes that the most significant
qualities of the elements are each opposite and contrary:240
Vbi notandum quod non ex coitu substantialium elementorum, dum sint incorruptibilia et
insolubilia, sed ex eorum qualitatibus sibi inuicem proportionaliter copulatis corpora
sensibilia conficiuntur. Qualitates autem quattuor elementorum notissimae sunt quattuor:
Caliditas, umiditas, frigiditas, siccitas, ex quibus omnia corpora materialia adiectis formis
componi physica perhibet theoria. Quarum quidem actiuas esse duas philosophi dicunt
MacInnis, trans., Periphyseon I, CCCM 161, 50-51 (PL122:477B-C).
Gersh, Concord, 145.
195 caliditatem et frigiditatem; passiuasque duas, umiditatem et ariditatem. Dum enim
caliditas umiditati et frigiditas ariditati naturali quodam coitu miscentur, omnia quae in
terra et mari nascuntur procreationem accipiunt.
And here it should be noted that sensible bodies are produced not from the joining of
substantial elements that are incorruptible and indissoluble, but from their qualities joined
together proportionally [proportionaliter]. There are four best-known qualities for each
of the four elements: hotness, wetness, coldness, and dryness, from which physical theory
asserts that all solid bodies are composed when forms are added. Natural philosophers
say that two of these are active, hotness and coldness, and two passive, wetness and
dryness. For, when by a certain natural joining, hotness is blended with wetness and
coldness with dryness, all things which are born in land and sea achieve their
In both descriptions of the elements quoted above, we observe extremes that are mediated
conceptually in an ordered proportionate way in the physical world. In another portion of
Periphyseon III, Eriugena reads this principle of elemental mediation as a Neoplatonic
emanation, i.e., in the Creation account of Genesis 1 in which the firmament is said to divide
waters above and below. Specifically, Eriugena describes this division of water, firmament, and
water as the primordial causes, the transcendent state of the elements, and the immanent state of
elemental qualities. In the following set of three quotations from Periphyseon III, §695A-696B,
one may observe 1) the division of all the created world into a three-term ratio of pure spirit,
MacInnis, trans., Periphyseon III, CCCM 163, 133 (PL122:712B).
196 pure matter, and a mediant composed of both proportionally, 2) proportional mediation in the
interactions between the primordial causes and the physical world, and 3) Eriugena’s
acknowledgement that a possible interpretation of the primordial causes, or upper waters in this
text, could be as the Celestial Powers [caelestibus uirtutibus]:
1) Totius itaque conditae naturae trinam diuisionem esse arbitror. Omne enim quod
creatum est aut omnino corpus est, aut omnino spiritus, aut aliquod medium, quod nec
omnino corpus est nec omnino spiritus, sed quadam medietatis et extremitatum ratione ex
spirituali omnino natura, ueluti ex una extremitate et superiori, et ex alter (hoc est ex
omnino corporea) proportionaliter in se recipit; unde proprie et connaturaliter
extremitatibus suis subsistit. Proinde, si quis intentus inspexerit, in hac ternaria
proportionalitate hunc mundum constitutum intelliget.
Therefore, I think that created nature is divided into three parts. For everything that is
created is either entirely body or entirely spirit or something intermediate [medium]
which is neither completely body nor completely spirit, but which, by a certain plan,
between the middle and the extremes, proportionally [proportionaliter] receives into
itself from the nature that is completely spiritual as from an higher extreme, and from the
other, that is from the nature that is completely corporeal. Whence, properly, it stands
naturally in relation to the extremes. Therefore, if anyone looks carefully he will
understand that the universe is constituted upon this triple proportionality [ternaria
197 2) At si quis simplicium elimentorum naturam intueatur, luce clarius quandam
proportionabilem medietatem inueniet, qua nec omnino corpus sunt—quamuis eorum
corruptione naturalia corpora subsistant et coitu, nec omnino corporeae naturae expertia,
dum ab eis omnia corpora profluant et in ea iterum resoluantur. Et iterum alteri superiori
quidem extremitate comparata nec omnino spiritus sunt, quoniam non omnino corporea
extremitate absoluta, nec omnino non spiritus, cum ex rationibus omnino spiritualibus
subsistentiae suae occasiones suscipiant. Non irrationabiliter itaque diximus hunc
mundum extremitates quasdam a se inuicem penitus discretas et medietates, in quibus
uniuersitatis concors armonia coniungitur possidere.
Anyone considering the nature of simple elements will find, clearer than light, a certain
proportionate mediation [proportionabilem medietatem], that they are neither altogether
body—although it is by their dissolving and joining that natural bodies exist—nor
altogether without corporeal nature, since from them all bodies flow forth and are
likewise resolved into them. Compared to the upper extreme, they are not altogether spirit,
since they are not altogether detached from the corporeal extreme, and neither are they
altogether not spirit, since they receive the occasions of their existence from reasons
which are altogether spiritual. Not without reasons, then, did we say that this world
possesses certain extremes, which are totally distinct from each other, and intermediaries,
in which the concordant harmony of this universe is united.
3) Spirituales uero omnium uisibilium rationes superiorum aquarum nomine appellari
ratio edocet. Ex ipsis enim omnia elementa, siue simplicia siue composita, ueluti ex
198 quibusdam magnis fontibus defluunt, indeque intelligibili quadam uirtute rigata
administrantur. Nec hoc silet scriptura clamans: “Et aquae, quae super caelos sunt,
laudant nomen domini.” Quamuis enim hoc de caelestibus uirtutibus quis intelligat,
praedicto sensui non repugnat dum sit diuinorum eloquiorum multiplex interpretatio.
Proinde harum aquarum in medio dixit deus fieri firmamentum, hoc est simplicium
elementorum naturam quae quantum uisibilia corpora superat, tantum ab inuisibilibus
eorum rationibus superatur; quantumque a superioribus suscipit, tantum inferioribus
distribuit, quantum uero ab inferioribus recipit, tantum superioribus restituit, referens eis
omne quod ab eis defluxit.
Reason teaches that it is the spiritual reasons of all visible things that are called by the
name of the upper waters. From these, all the elements flow forth, whether simple or
composite, as from certain great springs, and, thence, moistened by a certain intelligible
virtue, they are conducted. Scripture is not silent on this point and declares, “The waters
above the heavens praise the Name of the Lord” [Psalm 148:4]. Although one may
understand this to refer to the Heavenly Powers [caelestibus uirtutibus], it does not
necessarily oppose the interpretation given above, for there are many ways of interpreting
the Divine Oracles. God said that the firmament was made in the midst of these waters,
that is, the nature of simple elements that so much transcends visible bodies as it is
transcended by their invisible reasons. And, as much as it receives from the things above,
so much it distributes to those below. And, as much as it receives from the lower, so
much it restores to the higher, returning to them all that had flowed from them.242
MacInnis, trans., Periphyseon III, CCCM 163, 109-10 (PL122:695A-696A).
199 The possibility of reading the waters above the firmament as the primordial causes or as
Celestial Powers, mentioned in the third example, speaks to the metaphysical question of how
angelic life is differentiated from human life, angelic souls from human souls in the procession
of all things from God. Furthermore, what is the nature of those interactions between rational
beings spanning the spiritual distances between God and man? The quotation from Augustine’s
De musica VI, considered at the end of Chapter 4, hinted at a proportionate ordering in the
Celestial Hierarchy, and, now, the implications to Augustine’s (and Eriugena’s) idea can be
Proportional Mediation within the Angelic Hierarchy
In the following excerpt from CH Book IX, Eriugena explains that in the last hierarchy of
Principalities, Archangels, and Angels we observe characteristics possessed by all hierarchies,
two extremes and some sort of mediator. Furthermore, we read that the mediator has the function
of passing on communication from the higher rank to the lower:
Hoc est quod ait: quamquam Principatuum et Archangelorum et Angelorum una ierarchia
sit et dispositio, uerumtamen non parua discernuntur differentia. Archangelorum
siquidem ordo medietatis proportionem inter duos extremos, hoc est inter ordinem
Principatuum et ordinem angelicum optinet, quoniam nulla ierarchia est, siue humana
siue angelica, que non habeat et primas et medias et ultimas uirtutes. Ordo itaque
Archangelorum medius est inter Principatuum quasi superiorem et Angelorum ueluti
inferiorem. Et nihil aliud est ipsa medietatis proportio, nisi ierarchica, id est pontificalis
200 This is what he [i.e., Pseudo-Dionysius] says: though the Principalities, Archangels, and
Angels are placed in a hierarchy, nevertheless, no small difference is observed between
them. Indeed, the order of archangels has the proportion of mediation [medietatis
proportionem] between two extremes, that is, between the order of principalities and the
angelic order, since there is no hierarchy whether human or angelic which does not have
first, middle [medias], and last powers. So the order of archangels is in the middle
between that of principalities which is as though inferior, while that portion of mediation
[medietatis proportio] itself is none other than hierarchical or priestly communication.243
The communication referred to here, passed between the ranks of angels, is, in fact,
illuminations or revelations from God to man. Interestingly, in the section following this passage,
Eriugena translates Pseudo-Dionysius as claiming that these divine illuminations are shared
between angelic orders and then to mankind in ways that are analogical: “These illuminations are
disclosed to us through the Angels, according to the sacred analogy of each” (easdem
illuminationes nobis per Angelos manifestat, secundum sanctam analogiam uniuscuiusque).244
Later, at the end of CH XI, Eriugena explains what this proportional relay of illumination
entails: communication happens in ways that are particular and proportional to each participant
in the hierarchy. We learn that communication is analogical because the nature of each celestial
being is in fact analogical, i.e., properties of lower members are found in successively higher
members as in the relationship between particulars to increasingly transcendent universals.
Eriugena’s translation of Pseudo-Dionysius runs, “ILLVMINATIONIBVS PER PRIMAS
MacInnis, trans., Expositiones, CCCM 31, 136 (PL122:210).
MacInnis, trans., Expositiones, CCCM 31, 137 (PL122:211).
201 PROPORTIONALITER EIS DISTRIBVTIS” [the illuminations are distributed proportionally to
them through the first]. Commenting on this portion of CH, Eriugena wrote,
superordinati diuini animi abundanter sanctas proprietates minorum animorum habent,
ultimi uero maiorum uniuersas superpositas proprietates non habent, dum apparentes
illuminationes primis primo uniuersaliter in eos, ultimos uidelicet, particulariter per
primos, et proportionaliter eis, ultimis, distribuuntur. Quod breuiter colligendum: copiose
habent primi ordines et suas et minorum se diuinas primo in se apparentes illuminationes;
non autem copiose, id est uniuersaliter, sicut ipsis primis, sed particularter per primos
ultimis, prout analogia eorum exigit, eedem illuminationes distribuuntur.
Divine souls of higher rank possess abundantly the holy properties of lesser souls, while
those of the lowest rank do not possess the transcending universal properties of the higher.
For one may see that the illuminations that appear first universally to the highest rank are
then distributed through those first ranks to the last, in a manner particular and
proportionate to them. Simply put, it should be inferred that the first orders have in
abundance their own divine illuminations and those of the lower, which first appear in
them. But those same illuminations are distributed through the first orders to the last not
plentifully, i.e., universally, as they are to the first orders themselves, but particularly and
as is appropriate to their analogy [prout analogia eorum exigit].245
MacInnis, trans., Expositiones, CCCM 31, 161 (PL122:230).
202 In one final portion from Eriugena’s Expositiones, we read a summary of the foregoing
information but learn, additionally, that the hierarchy of angels is set in motion by God and that
the motion itself is proportional. One might imagine the varying motions of angels passing on
illuminations from God as speeding up at each rank, perhaps doubling. Or one might picture the
orbiting planets of the cosmos, all moving at proportional speeds above the still Earth. I find the
second possibility compelling, but, in fact, I think Eriugena intends the motion mentioned here as
metaphorical, as in the metaphorical flowing of the elements from the primordial causes
MANIFESTATORES AVTEM OMNES, ET ANGELI EORVM QVI ANTE IPSOS,
SVNT; IPSI QVIDEM HONORABILISSIMI DEI MOVENTIS, PROPORTIONALITER
AVTEM CETERI EX DEO MOTORVM. Omnes uirtutes celestes manifestatores sunt et
angeli eorum qui se precedunt, ita ut ordines prime ierarchie, qui sunt ceterorum
excellentissimi, manifestatores angeli sunt Dei, qui omnes mouet, ceteri uero
proportionaliter angeli sunt eorum qui ex Deo mouentur. Vt enim prima ierarchia ipsum
Deum annuntiat medie, ita media annuntiat primam tertie, et tertia annuntiat mediam
quarte que est nostra. Et, ut breuiter dicam, inferiores ordines gradatim ascendentes
superiorum se angeli sunt, et omnes communiter Dei. TANTVM ENIM OMNIVM
SVPERESSENTIALIS ARMONIA VNICUIQVE RATIONALIVM ET
INTELLECTVALIVM SACRO ORNATV ET ORDINATA DVCTIONE PREVIDIT,
QVANTVM IPSE IERARCHIARVM VNVSQVISQVE ORDO SACRE ET
Cf., Periphyseon III, CCCM 163, 109-110 (PL122:695A-696A).
203 DECENTER POSITVS EST. Tantum, inquit, superessentialis armonia, summa uidelicet
omnium causa, preuidit unicuique rationali et intellectuali creature ornatu sacro et
ordinata reductione distribuere, quantum ipse, unusquisque uidelicet, ordo ierarchiarum
sancte et pulchre positus est, hoc est in quantum ordo ierarchiarum exigit, in tantum ei
distribuitur ex superessentiali omnium adunatione.
MOREOVER, THEY ARE ALL THE REVEALERS AND MESSENGERS OF THOSE
WHO ARE BEFORE THEM; INDEED, OF THOSE HAVING BEEN MOVED BY
GOD, THEY THEMSELVES [i.e., the first hierarchy] ARE THE MOST HONORED OF
GOD, IN COMPARISON TO THE OTHERS MOVING PROPORTIONALLY
[PROPORTIONALITER]. All celestial powers are the revealers and messengers of those
who precede them so that the ranks of the first hierarchy, who are the most excellent
among them, are the revealers and messengers of God, who moves them all. In truth, the
rest of them are angels who are moved by God proportionally so that the first hierarchy
makes God Himself known to the middle. Thus, the middle makes the first known to the
third, and the third makes the middle known to the fourth, which is ours. And, that I may
speak briefly, the lower ranks climbing by degrees are the messengers for the superiors,
and all commonly of God. INDEED, THE SUPERESSENTIAL HARMONY HAS SO
FORESEEN TO THE SACRED EQUIPPING AND APPOINTED LEADING FOR
EACH OF THE RATIONAL AND INTELLECTUAL BEINGS THAT EACH RANK
OF THE HIERARCHIES IS ITSELF PLACED SACREDLY AND APPROPRIATELY.
He [i.e., Pseudo-Dionysius] says, so much has the Superessential Harmony, the highest
cause of all things clearly foreseen for each rational and intellectual creature to assign a
204 sacred ordering and appointed leading back so that one may see that each rank of the
hierarchies is itself sacredly and beautifully positioned. That is, the rank of hierarchies is
so furnished that it is assigned to them according to the superessential union of all
In conclusion, it is important to note from these passages that the mediation of properties
between hierarchies is a procession from universal to increasingly particular; it is not simply a
matter of possessing or not possessing discrete characteristics, as in Calcidius’s discussion of the
elements ranging between fire and earth. And, certainly, Pseudo-Dionysius and Eriugena do not
envision actual spatial distances between members of the celestial hierarchy. On the other hand,
similarities between these passages of Eriugena explaining Pseudo-Dionysius and Calcidius
expounding Plato, as well as the other texts considered above, are found in how each seeks to
account for the distance between apparently irreconcilable extremes. In each instance, a mediator
or mediators arise to bridge the gap in proportional ways, though Pseudo-Dionysius’s account of
the celestial hierarchy is exceptional in how the mediators are not simple elements but rational
beings with active and passive potential.248 Finally, Pseudo-Dionysius and Eriugena do not
present numbers to describe the proportional relationships; their understanding is that the angelic
beings exist and act in ways like an analogy, i.e., the hierarchy of angels interact in ways similar
to Calcidius’s continuous and geometrical analogies between the elements.
MacInnis, trans., Expositiones, CCCM 31, 154 (PL122:225).
Gersh, Concord, 154.
205 CHAPTER 6
CONCLUSION: “THE HARMONY OF ALL THINGS”
In conclusion, this dissertation has surveyed the major writings of John Scottus Eriugena
and explained resonances of the ars musica in his Annotationes in Marcianum, Periphyseon, and
Expositiones in Hierarchiam Caelestem. Specifically, we have observed the ways in which
Eriugena’s reflections on music as a liberal art and all-embracing academic discipline intersect
with his discussions of the cosmos and the soul, the corporeal and the spiritual.
We have traced the expansive significance of Eriugena’s definition of musica from
Periphyseon I, which singles out the discipline of music as addressing both the physical and
metaphysical worlds: “Music is the discipline discerning by the light of reason the harmony of
all things in natural proportions which are either in motion or at rest.”249 Particularly, the “natural
proportions” in Eriugena’s definition constitute all things that can be studied, visible or invisible,
and regardless of their motion or rest; i.e., all things are ordered and can be considered rationally.
We have seen that the proportions Eriugena read everywhere in the universe are a part of the
same universal, harmonic principle of proportional mediation between extremes and that they
can be literally understood (in the case of music) and metaphorically implied (in the case of the
Celestial Hierarchy). Furthermore, these proportions are understood as most basically continuous
and geometrical, a universal application of proportionalitas or analogia.
For Eriugena, there truly was a harmony to all things. Indeed, the entire coherence of the
universe can find no better metaphor than harmony, nor can any other of the liberal arts more
perfectly express cosmic complexity and unity than musica. Eriugena is not alone in this view, of
Periphyseon I, CCCM 161, 48 (PL122:475B): “Musica est omnium quae sunt siue in
motu siue in statu in naturalibus proportionibus armoniam rationis lumine dinoscens disciplina.”
206 course; the Neoplatonic tradition to which he contributed had long heard harmony in the spheres
and beyond. Through the voice of its last major expounder, then, we observe where
Neoplatonism eventually stood in its ancient desire to understand the coherence and
interreferentiality of music, soul, and cosmos. Eriugena’s distinction comes in his intense and
prodigious efforts to systematize the intellectual traditions of the past with orthodox and truly
catholic Christianity, drawing on both Eastern and Western traditions.
In addition to observing the state of Neoplatonism in the ninth-century, in Eriugena’s
writings, it is fascinating to note that a consistent element in Eriugena’s explanations of the
related ordering of music, soul, and cosmos is the need for a central mediator to make sense of an
entire system. For example, in Eriugena’s explanations of Capella’s De Nuptiis, we learned that
the image of the centrally placed Sun modulating the entire cosmic system relates to the central
pitch (media) defined in the Immutable System of Tetrachords and that pitch (media) established
when tuning a monochord. More abstractly, for Eriugena, the modulating Sun also serves as a
metaphor for reason in the process of theosis. And, similarly, the middle rank (media) in the
Celestial Hierarchy transmits the oracles of God between the first and the third.
Using documents read and known by Eriugena in the ninth century, we have observed
how philosophical terms and concepts play out in concert with the study of music and that the
interreferentiality of music, soul, and cosmos in Eriugena’s writings highlights the
interdisciplinary nature of music in Eriugena’s day. That is, this dissertation has contributed to a
more thorough understanding of ninth-century musical culture and demonstrated the great
importance of musica in Carolingian learning, especially in philosophical discourse.
Understanding the general applicability for concepts defined as musical in Carolingian
literature provides insight into motivations for more specialized explorations of music in the
207 ninth century and its value in Carolingian culture generally, e.g., the sudden appearance of the
first medieval music treatises, the first notations of chant, and the first penned theoretical
rationalizations for polyphony. Finally, although this dissertation has focused on the works of
one remarkable individual, through the exceptional it is possible to understand the common;
understanding the values, judgments, and efforts of Eriugena lends insight into the Carolingian
era in which he lived and worked.
An excerpt from Eriugena’s Expositiones should serve as a fitting close. In the following,
Eriugena explained why there must be proportional distinctions in the divine emanations, and,
indeed, in all things. Additionally, one may read clearly what Eriugena understood harmony to
be and why it best expresses the order of all things in relationship to each other and to God, their
ultimate source and end. Simply put, for Eriugena, proportional mediation between extremes is
itself harmony and a linchpin for the possibility of beauty in the world:250
Si enim Deus equaliter, absque ulla ordinum diuersorum differentia et proprietate et
ascensione et descensione uariorum graduum uniuersitatem conditam faceret, nullus
fortassis ordo in republica naturarum fieret. Si nullus ordo fieret, nulla harmonia. At si
nulla harmonia, nulla sequeretur pulchritudo. In omnino enim similibus sicut nulla
Boethius defined consonance in remarkable similar terms in DIM I:3, “One should not
think that when a string is struck, only one sound is produced, or that only one percussion is
present in these numerous sounds; rather, as often as air is moved, the vibrating string will have
struck it. But since the rapid motions of sounds are connected, no interruption is sensed by the
ears, and a single sound, either low or high, impresses the sense. Yet each sound consists of
many sounds . . . For consonance is the concord of mutually dissimilar pitches brought together
into one” (Bower, trans., Boethius, De institutione musica, Book I:3, 12).
208 harmonia est, ita nulla pulchritudo. Est enim harmonia dissimilium inequaliumque rerum
If God is uniform and understood as a universal condition apart from any distinction,
quality, ascent, or descent of diverse classes or various grades, there is no possibility of
order in the natural world. If there is no order, there is no harmony, and if no harmony it
follows that there is no beauty. Indeed, if everything was similar there would be no
harmony, and, therefore, no beauty. Harmony is the unification of dissimilar and unequal
MacInnis, trans., Expositiones, CCCM 31, 138 (PL122:212). It may go without saying,
but Eriugena’s understanding of beauty coheres nicely with Plato’s golden mean—a three-term
analogy. Cf., Timaeus 31C-32A, “But it’s not possible for two things alone to be beautifully
combined apart from some third: some bond must get in the middle and bring them both together.
And the most beautiful of these bonds is that which, as much as possible, makes itself and the
things bound together one, and proportion is suited by nature to accomplish this most beautifully.
For whenever, of three numbers, the middle term of any two of them, whether cubic or square, is
such that as the first is to it so is it to the last—and again, conversely, as the last is to the middle
so is this middle to the first—then the middle term becomes first and last, while the last and first
in turn both become middle terms, so that of necessity it will turn out that all the terms will be
the same; and once they’ve come to be the same in relation to each other, all will be one.”
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216 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH
John Christian MacInnis was born on 16 July 1981 in Nova Scotia, Canada. Yearly Royal
Conservatory Examinations and music festival competitions focused his musical instruction, and,
upon graduation from Cobequid Educational Centre, Truro, Nova Scotia, in 1999, John
continued his education at Bob Jones University, a liberal arts college in Greenville, South
Carolina. At BJU, John studied piano with Prof. Laurence H. Morton and Dr. Peter Davis.
After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Piano Performance, cum laude, in 2003,
John stayed at BJU for a master’s degree in Sacred Music, Organ Proficiency. John studied
organ with Dr. Edward Dunbar and represented South Carolina in the 2005 MTNA organ
competition, division finals. While studying at BJU, John worked at the university’s publishing
house as a research assistant and served as a contributing author on several high school textbook
revisions, including World History. John graduated in 2006 and worked as an organ tuner’s
apprentice in Charlotte, North Carolina, before accepting a position as high school music teacher
at Westwood Christian Academy in Miami, Florida, for the 2006-2007 school year.
In 2007, John married Victoria Lynn Cannon and began his studies at Florida State
University in Tallahassee, Florida, where he graduated in 2009 with a master’s degree in
Historical Musicology. John stayed at FSU to pursue a doctorate in Musicology, which he
completed in 2014. While at FSU, John played organ with the Baroque Ensemble, Cantores
Musicae Antiquae, and Collegium Musicum. Additionally, he participated in the Chinese
Ensemble and Sekaa Gong Hanuman Agung, FSU’s Balinese Gamelan. Also, while living in
Tallahassee, John served on the board of the Tallahassee Chapter of the American Guild of
Organists. From 2007 to 2012, John worked as Associate Organist and Interim Director of Music
for St. Peter’s Anglican Church (ACNA).
217 In 2012, John joined the Music Department at Dordt College in Sioux Center, Iowa,
where he continues to teach Music Theory and Music History. John has received several
pedagogical innovations grants at Dordt College supporting his research in the use of tablet
technology in the Music Theory classroom. During the summer of 2014, John will attend the
Eastman School of Music’s Institute for Music Theory Pedagogy in Rochester, New York.